Babbits, Boosterism, and Economic Development

I had a little conversation the other night when i went down to City Hall to testify on the Tax stabilization plan for the I-195 lands and why this type of tax break is likely to cause harm to the city. I went armed with IMF statistics about how income distribution and redistribution affects economies . The IMF stated that tax breaks for “job creators” in the top 20% of the income distribution slows an economy. A 1% tilting of income distribution towards the top 20% slows growth by .08% per year, while giving the 1% greater percentage of income distribution to the bottom 20% adds .38% a year. In other words economies grow on average .46% faster each year if they lean towards the poor and increase the poor’s share of the income distribution.

The person I had the conversation with is the director of one of the downtown boosterism organizations. They promote downtown development and get all of their funding from downtown businesses. The main job is cheerleading and then working out the details for how to transform Providence into an economic powerhouse. If you read Sinclair Lewis’s book “Babbitt” you know exactly what I mean. The whole idea that downtown development pushes economies and that everyone should be cheerleading for the rich to do more is exactly what the capitalists and the landlords want because it makes it easier for them to suck at the public teat despite evidence that it harms communities and creates a more unequal society. For which they should be ashamed. Either ashamed to call themselves capitalists if they require a subsidy from the public to perform their work or ashamed that their business model of development is such a failure and actually harms communities. And ashamed with just how little they are paying attention to the world around them. But they have no shame.

They may pay lip service to climate change, but they are not ready to retreat from the coast. They may want development, but when the IMF, World Bank and OECD all say their methods and practices are sub par and worsen problems, they are not going to give them up, despite a 50 year track record of mediocrity. So I was accused of being too negative, of trying to put the city at a competitive disadvantage, and of promoting sprawl. Yup. Promoting sprawl because I want the city to use the land to grow food rather than give money tothe rich to house businesses that are bleeding the poor. I speak truth to power and they do not know what to do with the truth. And I understand that in the 21st century subsidizing the rich for the building of buildings is what you do when you run out of ideas and have no vision on what is really needed to create prosperous communities under conditions of economic shrinkage due to ecological collapse, debt burdens, and growing inequality. Food security has no role in their economy, nor housing for the homeless unless that is what is needed to get them out of downtown.

If standing strong against stealing by the rich makes me unpopular with the Babbits of the world, I am proud to wear it. And the resistance is global.

June ecology lessons 2015

Greg Gerrritt July 1, 2015

I keep spending more and more time in Providence’s North Burial Ground, and continue to find it the liveliest place in the city. For several years I have been filming the wildlife in the Burial Ground, with a special emphasis on life in two small ponds and especially the amphibians that inhabit them. This is my 4th year of study and the third year I have been filming. I decided to up the ante this year by getting a new camera, and setting a goal of creating a fictionalized children’s story on toad evolution, development and behavior from the footage I shoot this year.

I created some very interesting videos last year, using the process to further study the anatomy and behavior of Fowler’s Toad tadpoles. I was familiar with the mating behavior, somewhat, but realized that there were huge gaps in both my video footage and my knowledge of the Toads. I have doubled the number of hours I am spending with the camera in the Burial Ground and extended my night hours. I can not say my knowledge is in any way complete, but I can say that I have some amazing night time footage and know much more about the Fowler’s Toads, Gray Tree frogs, and Bullfrogs that inhabit the two ponds.

One of the things I learned this year is that Fowler’s Toads, at least a few, use the large permanent pond for breeding as well as the drainage swale. I did not realize they would try to breed in a permanent pond, and assumed if they did they would be unsuccessful. I heard, and have audio to prove it, that Fowler’s Toads call in the area of the pond amongst the Bullfrogs. In early June I saw some very small tadpoles in the pond right up against the peninsula that juts into the middle of the pond. I posted some video asking what they were since I have never seen very young Bullfrog tadpoles and was not sure what they looked like. Turns out I still have not seen young Bullfrog Tadpoles, and as these few tadpoles have developed it has become obvious they are Fowler’s Toads. As of July 1 at least one of the Fowler’s toad tadpoles in the large pond has some fairly well developed legs, appropriate for having been hatched several weeks ago, and something small Bullfrog tadpoles do not have.

Other video and naturalist highlights from the large pond include the very shy Great Blue Heron that I catch a glimpse of nearly every day, and the video of it swallowing a 12 inch fish that it caught as I was arriving at the pond. I have some closeups of a Red eared Slider turtle, have seen a nest laid by a snapping turtle, and have found that the population of Painted Turtles in the pond is at least 17, which is up 3 from last year and the most I have ever seen since I started watching. When I began 5 years ago there were 6 turtles.

Many people relish the larger pond and often I meet people there who tell me of childhoods in the neighborhood catching frogs and fishing in the pond. But my research is much more focused on the drainage swale/impermanent pond near the maintenance building just below the intersection of Branch Avenue and I-95. The drainage swale is about 75 ft long by 60 feet wide in a small bowl. It is entirely rain-fed, with a small watershed of cemetery roads draining in. It takes about 1/2 inch of rain to make the pond go up noticeably, but 3 inches of rain fills it up to a depth of maybe 18 inches. Its design is such that even 12 inches of rain could be absorbed with no threat to anything. The pond regularly goes dry, whenever we go three or 4 weeks with no appreciable rain. It went dry this year as soon as the snow melt was absorbed, filled up rains of May 31 and June 1, and then went dry again June 14. The second time it went dry was a bit traumatic as the frogs and toads were breeding as soon as the rains came, by June 9 there were many tadpoles swimming around, and thousands of tadpoles died from lack of water. I had seen small pools that had been cut off trap tadpoles before, but never had it gone completely dry with and entire crop of tadpoles. It was not a pretty sight.

In additon to studying the Tadpoles of the Burial Ground, I am concerned about amphibian populations and in conjunction with the Green Infrastructure Coalition I am exploring the use of rainwater green infrastructure for amphibian habitat in an effort to help amphibians in their struggle to survive the paving of the planet. I need to figure out how much water is necessary to get through breeding seasons and how to indentify appropriate places to put amphibian friendly green infrastructure.

June 15 it rained. And by the 16th the Fowler’s Toads and Gray Tree Frogs were calling and mating as if all was right in the world. By June 29 the mating had dwindled and there appeared to be only one Fowler’s Toad calling at the pond, but a number of Tree Frogs were still actively calling and frolicking. Spending more time among the calling night amphibians, for the first time I got to see and film the adults. I find that one tree frog seems to live in the stop sign at the corner right across from drainage swale, and i have footage of him calling at night before he leaps off the top of the sign and heads to join the fun in the pond. It will be interesting to see how late into the season breeding of the Tree Frogs goes.

The Toads , as it past years, seem to stop breeding earlier than the Tree Frogs, but again I have finally gotten to observe and film the adults so i am still learning. The toads are basically nocturnal (though I have audio of faint calling from the drainage swale in the middle of the day) and this year on a sand bank across the road from the pond (right next to the Tree Frog’s STOP sign) I found a number of Toad Burrows dug into the hillside. The first night I filmed a toad sitting in the burrow, and since have much footage of toads hanging out on the hillside after it gets completely dark. I also have figured out that on mating nights, once the females have mated they leave the pond, while the males keep calling until done for the night. I have on video several toads leaving the pond.

As of June 22 there was a new crop of tadpoles in the drainage swale. It takes a week for the eggs to hatch, so right on time. And almost every day since a new crop has hatched. When observing carefully one can now discern by size at least 5 different hatch days worth of tadpoles, and I expect there will be at least one more batch hatching soon.

While Gray Tree Frogs seem more numerous calling around the pond than the Fowler’s toads, Tree frog tadpoles seem to be much rarer in the pond. They are observed and filmed much less frequently, when netting fewer are caught. I am not sure why this is but have a few hypotheses that could be tested some day. One is that it is suboptimal habitat and that the Tree frogs are somehow constrained in mating even though calling loudly. Another is that the Tree Frogs use the pond differently than the Toads, not hanging out in shallow water for instance or staying further way from the shorelines so that I can neither see or net them. As yet it is a mystery, one that I will continue to ponder and seek evidence for.

Not much else new to report, but if you are interested check out the Moshassuckcritters Youtube channel https://www.youtube.com/user/Moshassuckcritters?view_as=public and the Late June video that inspired this essay. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hBurdpgfTp4

 

 

Toads live in Burrows

I have been on the graveyard shift. Not quite overnite, but from dark until I run out of memory in the camera. In the last few weeks I have for the first time really seen the adult toads and tree frogs. I can now even tell them apart. Toads are bigger. I have seen the tree frogs call, though I have yet to see a toad call. Toads seem to only call at the pond, tree frogs call from around the pond as well. I have also found where the frogs and toads live when not breeding. Well, one tree frog seems to live in the stop sign across the road from the drainage swale where all the breeding action takes place.

I had read that Fowler’sToads live in burrows dug into sandy areas, and the other night I found some, between the STOP sign and the granite stairs in the bank across the road from the draianage swale. I saw a toad sitting at the edge of the burrow looking out yesterday, went back and looked at the burrows today and discovered they go more than 6 inches deep ( deeper then the piece of grass I used for measuring) and tonite found 3 or 4 toads hanging out on stteop sandy bank that they have dug their burrows into. I started checking the area just before dark and found no none. But over the next 45 minutes several appeared. Tonite’s video has not yet been processed, this note accompanies footage from this afternoon and last night.

What was also intersting tonite ws that for the first time in weeks when there was water in the swale, no frogs or toads were calling. It will be interesting to see if they return to calling after it rains this weekend, or if the breeding season has ended. There have been fewer and fewer toads caling, incluidng none last night, while the tree frogs seemed down to a small number of callers last night, and were silent tonite. I would actually be relived if it was the end of the breeding season, though now that I know you can find the adults near the pond after dark, I might still be on the late shift through the summer. If that is the case I am going to need a better lighting rig than hand held flashlights.

I have been on the graveyard shift, but even more on a voyage of discovery. Learning how to see the frogs and toads, learning about their habits, habitats, and requirements. Hopefully what I learn can be brought to story telling this fall.

What the Bureau of Economic Analysis Report says to Rhode Island

What the Bureau of Economic Analysis report says to Rhode Island and policy prescriptions that would be used if Rhode Island’s political leadership was actually willing to ponder what is going on.

Greg Gerritt June 2015

My goal is the most widespread prosperity possible in Rhode Island. Every kid should grow up well nourished, with every opportunity. Every adult should have a right livelihood, meaningful work that satisfies and supports the community and their family. We are far from that goal, and seem to be moving away from it towards a state of greater inequality, more intractable problems. It is my contention that we are moving in the wrong direction because a few people who benefit from the current system are pushing us there, and using their money to create a public policy arena that is toxic to our community. To combat this, in addition to feistiness, we need information and honest analysis. Then we have to bring what we learn into the public policy arena so that outcomes are based on reality, not a Chamber of Commerce fantasy.

The fantasy is that old industrial states will reach 3% economic growth per year on a regular basis. There are a number of reasons why the 3% growth game is a fantasy, and a very burdensome one to most of the community. But also a very useful fantasy for the wealthy. They always have a tool for giving themselves more if they can remotely tie it to the proposition that it would increase economic growth rates and create jobs. Study of places around the world experiencing rapid economic growth since the beginning of the industrial revolution point out the conditions necessary for rapid growth, essentially 3% per year or more growth for an extended period of time. When looking at the key factors leading to rapid economic growth I tend to follow Immanuel Wallerstein. Immanuel Wallerstein The Modern World-System: Capitalist Agriculture and the Origins of the European World-Economy in the Sixteenth Century. New York: Academic Press, 1976,

Here is a synopsis of the criteria for rapid growth over the last 500 years, and just as relevant today. Places need at least one of these things to be happening, and rarely does a place have all three working simultaneously. Most of the industrialized west has none of these things happening, and therefore low growth rates are very common.

The first category is a natural resource boom. Fossil fuels and minerals are often involved, but as growth ultimately happens because of the demands of growing cities, even more important are forests and forest products such as wood to build new buildings and furniture. The record is quite clear, cities can not get built or grow without new sources of wood. And as the forests are usually gone on any flat land near cities soon after founding, the race to expropriate the wood used in new cities is going faster and farther afield now than ever before in human history. Less than half the global forest remains and deforestation numbers are in the millions of hectares every year. Deforestation and expropriation are often accompanied by genocide, compounding the problem.

The depletion of resources of all types: forests, fish, soil, minerals, phosphorous, clean water, the climate, sinks, whatever you can think of that people and the rest of the life on the planet need all the time, goes faster than ever, and is swiftly reaching limits and tipping points that seriously threaten civilization and our economy. Rhode Island has no natural resources that can stand additional pressure, and therefore we shall not get large scale natural resource based growth, though agriculture is one of our growth industries.

The second condition for rapid growth is a rapidly urbanizing population of rural dwellers coming into the city for their first taste of urban life. Many are the expropriated forest people who were left with the choice of moving to shanty towns or death if they resist and insist on the right to live on the lands of their people. Many others are farmers with no place to farm, families squeezed out by soil depleting agriculture foisted upon them by Monsanto and its ilk. Urban Rhode Island is not exactly a steamroller of population growth. We have no hinterlands producing too many hands for the land and encouraging all the kids to head out before the army comes, but we do have a flow from our neighbors to the south as their agriculture succumbs to free trade chemical agriculture, deforestation, and death squads funded and trained by the US government.

The third condition for rapid growth is to be a mega city with historic ties to one of several industries that globalize well such as finance, entertainment, medicine, and communications/computers. I know RI wants to be the home of design and the medical industrial complex, which globalizes reasonably well, despite how often medical bills bankrupt people, but we are not in a megacity and will not be until Earthcity jumps off the science fiction pages and into our lives. Often the policies communities use to get in this game increase inequality and harms 99% us while benefitting the owners of downtown land and others who can get subsidies and tax breaks (see medically induced financial disasters). In other words it is a strategy guaranteed to fail the community. If you build it it often stands empty without another reason to move for people to choose to move in.

But even the megacities of the rapidly industrializing lower income countries are unlikely to achieve a western income level before the boom runs out. One thing to watch for is the middle income trap in which low income places grow rapidly, but get stuck at a per capita income around $10K. China is struggling to avoid this, and very very few of the newly industrializing countries are managing to avoid it. South Korea may have been the last country to escape. One must never forget the resource base that is rapidly depleting and therefore will be unable to sustain growth forever.
The Bureau of Economic Analysis report on economic growth for 2014

About a year ago I started subscribing to the occasional releases of the Bureau of Economic Analysis. It is a Federal government agency and its primary job is to report on the rate of economic growth and parse the data a bit. The most recent release http://www.bea.gov/newsreleases/regional/gdp_state/gsp_newsrelease.htm discussed the final numbers for economic growth in 2014 nationally and by state. This report stated that the growth rate of the USA in 2014 was 2.2% up slightly from the 1.9% in 2013, and in keeping with the recent trend of being in the 2.2 neighborhood since the worst of the recession ended. Given the frantic efforts in Washington DC to boost growth, and the fact that none of the policy makers in DC consider 2.2% growth to be all that good, it makes me wonder whether the politicians actually know what is going on. All the kings horses and all the kings men could not put the growth machine back together again. And never will.

Rhode Island was tied for 28th in the rankings with Delaware and Illinois at 1.2%, just over half the national rate. Just that number in all likelihood will set off the Rhode Island counterparts of the men who scream for growth and bring down upon us the prescription of austerity for the people and more tax cuts for the wealthy. But if you look at the data state by state it tells you the business climate mania that sets the policy, the Chamber of Commerce ideology that sets the agenda, has almost nothing to do with how well the economy of the various states are doing. The reports on how poorly business climate indexes predict economic growth are legion. My favorite is from the Business Curmudgeon http://journal.c2er.org/2013/02/business-climate-revisited/ . Good jobs first also has a good report on the business climate scam. Grading Places: What Do the Business Climate Rankings Really Tell Us? by Peter Fisher, with a Preface by Greg LeRoy May 2013 http://www.goodjobsfirst.org/gradingplaces

The first thing that jumps out from the BEA data, maybe because those states are shown as bright blue on the map, is that 9 of the 10 states with the highest growth rates are in the West (the exception is West Virginia) and that at least 8 of the top 10 have some sort of fossil fuel boom going on. The fossil fuel boom data is not on the map, but is widely available elsewhere. In other words nearly all of the states leading the US in growth rates are destroying the planet, especially its water and climate, for a temporary fix today. Oregon and Washington seem to be the only exceptions among the top 10, and even they are much more dependent upon depleting natural resources than the RI economy. Fracking is the only thing keeping the national growth rate above 2% and if we did anything like Full Cost Accounting, and deducted pollution and climate change costs from the overall economy, we would be going backwards and the obviousness of economic shrinkage would have to be acknowledged.

If you look east of the Mississippi, no region, not even the South, home of the business climate junkies, has a growth rate above 1.7%, though 9 of the 10 states with growth rates between 1.9 and 2.8% are in the east. The Southeast and the Mid Atlantic states are at 1.7% including places experiencing fossil fuel extraction booms. New England is at 1.6% and the upper Midwest is at 1.4%. Of the Rust belt states, the East minus the South, Rhode Island’s 1.2% growth is right in the middle and we are third in New England ahead of Maine, Vermont, and Connecticut. MA and NH lead New England at 2.3% or just about right at the national average. Boston, the only really large city in New England, leads with its knowledge economy, but even around Harvard and MIT, MA can not rival the growth rates of a fossil fuel boom. Texas and North Dakota lead the growth parade, with North Dakota growing by 9% in 2014 after growing by 15% the year before, though it is likely that much of the growth is building prisons for all the criminals in the oil boom towns. Every jail in the fracking parts of the state is full. Only 16 states are above the national average in economic growth with 34 states below the average. This also is indicative of booms in the fossil fuel states and everyone else trending towards a steady state.

The slowest growing states are all over the place with New England, the Southeast, the Northern Plains, the Great Lakes, and Alaska all represented, though for the most part not the West Most have Republican administrations, but more importantly each faces unique challenges. Many are low tax, weak regulation states that just do not seem to work the way we are told they should.

The literature in the economics field is starting to reflect that many scholars are looking at the end of rapid economic growth for most of the industrial world. They look at the industrial revolution and the 1870’s fossil fuel revolution as aberrations in the growth rate, and see a downward trend. Robert Gordon Robert J Gordon Is US Economic Growth Over? Faltering Innovation Confronts Six Headwinds NBER Working Paper No. 18315 Issued in August 2012 http://www.nber.org/papers/w18315 helped get it started. They see depleted resources and growing inequality, and have come to realize that in consumer societies, growing inequality throws sand in the gears of the economy. Piketty made that concept one that is widely know. And the inequality seems to grow from a public policy dominated more and more by the rich as their greed knows no bounds despite the planetary limitations. If they are to get richer, the middle class must be diminished.

Often a way to compare economic policy outcomes is to compare adjoining states with reasonably similar underlying economies but different policies. The poster children for the austerity for the people and tax cuts for the rich policies that the Business Climate indexes tout could be Wisconsin and Kansas. They might be contrasted with Minnesota and Missouri.

Wisconsin grew at 1% last year despite Governor Walker’s breaking unions, cutting taxes and shrinking the state budget. I say despite because Minnesota, Michigan, and Illinois, all adjoining states, grew faster. With administrations in Minnesota and Illinois not following the Chamber of Commerce cliff jumping frenzy. Michigan is jumping off the austerity cliff, but its economy has been so anemic for so long with the loss of the auto industry that with no where left to go but up it achieved somewhat higher growth last year even with the cracks in the facade widening as infrastructure breaks down.

Kansas went even farther than along the bunny trail of tax cuts to the point where its schools started shutting down for the year in May when they ran out of money. Kansas is experiencing something of an energy boom, so its growth rate slightly exceeds Missouri’s, but it is much lower than Oklahoma’s which is right in the middle of the boom. Nebraska had a slow growth rate, but as its unemployment rate was 2.6%, the lowest in the country, it did not have many people that could take new jobs. Kansas’s austerity program went so far that they had to shut the website of Kansas Inc, the state economic development agency. This is a big loss as Kansas Inc http://www.kansasinc.org/pubs/working/Business%20Climate%20Indexes.pdf ( the link takes you to something totally different as the website is closed down) did the definitive study comparing business climate indexes and economic performance, finding almost no correlation, and the study is no longer available on the web. You wonder if Kansas Inc was closed because it refused to mis-state the research and put its stamp of approval on the Governor’s misguided policies.

This analysis of growth rates points to a few things that seem relevant for RI. The first is that it is the economic and natural resources of a state, its history, geography, the size of its cities and its connections to the global economy have a much greater influence on economic growth rates than tax policies, regulatory regimes, or business climate. If all the top 5 growth rates are found in fracking states hell bent on global destruction, and none of the states with the slowest growth are involved in fracking, planetary destruction seems to be the key indicator of growth as long as you forget how to subtract the damage done instead of adding it to the Gross State Product.

The second is that growth is fading away in the US and will soon be gone. This is especially the case in states that were the growth regions of the Industrial Revolution like Rhode Island, but no longer fit the growth profile in the 21st Century. Industrialization in the rich economies no longer employs a broad working class and brings it into the middle class. Now computers eat jobs rather than create them, and we have no mechanism for creating jobs for people with High School diplomas. We are going to have to get ready for a steady state economy and we are going to have to figure out how to create prosperity and employment under those conditions.

I offer up a quote on growth that comes from some rather reputable consultants. McKinsey and Co. http://www.mckinsey.com/insights/health_systems_and_services/Africa_A_continent_of_opportunity_for_pharma_and_patients?cid=other-eml-alt-mip-mck-oth-1506

Africa: A continent of opportunity for pharma and patients
Africa may be the only pharmaceutical market where genuinely high growth is still achievable. Here’s what’s driving that strength and how companies should react.
June 2015 | byTania Holt, Mehdi Lahrichi, and Jorge Santos da Silva

“In a world of slowing and stagnating markets, Africa represents perhaps the last geographic frontier where genuinely high growth is still achievable. Early movers can take these four steps to pursue competitive advantage:”

What McKinsey is saying, that rapid growth anywhere except in the very poorest and rapidly urbanizing places is likely to be a short term resource boom followed by a bust. Combined with the slowdown of growth in China, the steady state economy in most of western Europe, the collapse of ecosystems everywhere, and the growing inequality in which the anemic growth they tout all ends up in the hands of 1% of the population, one has to conclude that Rhode Island is very unlikely to ever achieve high growth rates again. No matter what tax policy and give aways they come up with. And the effort to achieve rapid growth is likely to do significant harm by damaging ecosystems and increasing inequality.
Since RI is not going to achieve high growth rates again, what we face in the public policy realm are choices as to which policies are likely to create the most widespread prosperity in the low to zero growth environment we find ourselves in. Unfortunately the policy makers in Rhode Island insist that they can get a high growth rate here if we just follow their prescription. Of course they have been failing for the last 50 years with this prescription. And unfortunately, policies to achieve growth that do not fit the actual situation we find ourselves in make things worse and accelerate inequality. Thereby making things worse. The political leadership get their marching orders along with the campaign cash they use to get reelected from global corporations and the real estate industry. The prescriptions of tax breaks for the wealthy, and subsidies for everyone who wants to build a building downtown definitely contributes to greater inequality in RI, and as Piketty (Capital in the 21st Century) and a variety of other authors have pointed out, increasing inequality makes it very hard to run a consumer society or an economy that works at all well. And when 99% of the income gains are going to 3 to 5% of the population, it makes it really hard to be a consumer oriented economy and get economic vitality from consumption as most people get poorer. What is frustrating about the policy disaster is that the results we are seeing are exactly what any thinking person would predict given the formula being crafted on Smith Hill.

The I-195 land and the RI economy of the future.
Brownfields are a critical component of the Rhode Island economy of the future and what we do with them, and how the benefits of reuse are distributed will be crucial to our ability to create prosperous communities. But before we go to brownfields we need to go back to forests. And bring in some lessons from the forest as to what kind of development is needed in RI communities and how it might be organized.
Forest health may be the most important indicator of ecosystem health on Earth, and no one has ever figured out how to build cities without a new supply of wood. Now think about the people who live in forests, who are often he most marginalized and disenfranchised people in a country, just like those who live near brownfields.
As noted earlier forests are a critical ingredient for prosperity. And with the global forest half gone, and our understanding of the role of forests in keeping our planet alive, more and more folks are realizing that it no longer is useful or makes sense for our communities to allow anyone to displace the forest people and steal their forest. In fact the World Bank found exactly the opposite to be the case, and that economic development is most helped, locally and nationally, by providing secure tenure for the forest people and making sure all of the benefits of economic development accrue to the poorest people in the community, since if any of it leaks out it defeats the poverty ending agenda and harms the overall health of the national economy as well as the forest. Managing Forest Resources for Sustainable Development: An Evaluation of World Bank Group Experience, prepared by the Independent Evaluation Group, distributed internally on December 28, 2012 http://www.redd-monitor.org/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/ForestCODE-Jan-2013.pdf

Now think about brownfields, the land that is most available in our old cities and along the rivers. Now think of areas near brownfields as the RI equivalent of forest communities, inhabited by the most disenfranchised and marginalized members of the community. And the people who most need to benefit from economic development (Think Olneyville, Woonsocket, and West Warwick) . Taking a hint from the World Bank we have to realize that the for the 195 lands to really benefit Rhode Island economically they really need to be used to build equity and create benefits for the lowest income people in the community.

But clearly the plan is to do exactly the opposite, it will be used to attract more wealthy folks and the very wealthy folks who buy land and build buildings will get large subsidies (essentially a transfer of wealth for the community to some of its wealthiest members) and tax breaks. I have been told by people in the real estate industry that nothing would get built in Providence without tax breaks as our economy is too bad and there is not enough profit in it. The subsidy is the profit.

Clearly there is a breakdown in the system, and the breakdown is the belief that churning prosperity redeveloping property in the city has to bring more money per square foot than it did the last time, with ever greater profits to the landlords of downtown, is actually economic development for the 21st century. In most older cities this system has failed for the last 50 years, but going through it again and again is the received wisdom. This system is also responsible for nearly all of the corruption in politics.

RI needs to pay attention to this lesson because if we want to end poverty, especially among the most disenfranchised and marginalized members of the community, we can not keep giving tax breaks to millionaires to develop brownfields into high end properties. We have to break the cycle of upcycling. Yes I know it is very hard in a system running on debt, but eventually the growing inequality must get reversed. If that means no one can afford to build buildings, then lets start to use the land for purposes that can spread the benefits widely and that means brownfields for community food security.

It means there will be a bit less money sloshing around. It means planning for the shrinkage of the economy with an eye on economic justice. Something we ought to do since 99% of us are never going to see growth again. In the growth game as currently played 1% gets 99% of the growth in income. But we need prosperous communities, and that means thinking about widespread prosperity in a shrinking economy. Based on ecological healing and economic justice.

Here on Earth, and in Rhode Island, for the sake of ecological healing and the future of food, we need to use less, and considering how many people really do NEED more, then the 1% and the middle class in the industrial world are going to have to use less.

Some people think that is impossible or it would be horrible. But we have to think about prosperity rather than growth. We have to reduce inequality, heal ecosystems, close the war machine, create zero carbon emissions, reforest and farm our sprawl. Not build shopping centers or the next big thing.
There is much spending we could easily eliminate in ways that mean a happier, healthier, and more vibrant community while spending less money and refusing to exploit workers around the world.

For Providence’s prosperity start with food security and turn the I-195 land into farms, not biomedical labs or baseball stadiums. If we keep thinking economic development starts with real estate speculation and subsidies for the rich, we shall be stuck forever. If we think we need to relax environmental protections to grow the economy faster, remind yourself that for 99% of us growth left town years ago, and ecosystem health underlies our prosperity. Its time to give up the fantasy that growth is helping us build better communities when it is all ending up in the pockets of the few. Its time to think about the real consequences of growth with a Full Cost Accounting System, and think about how in the industrial world it is never coming back. Then lets build a prosperous future with solar energy and no more war machine.

Greg speaks at the Sierra Club Rally June 2015

I spoke at the Sierra Club’s “The environment is everyone’s business” Rally this week. I wrote what I think is a prettty good speech on the RI economy. That is the first link. I ended up not reading the speech, but giving one of the best speeches I have made in quite a while. The second link has all of the talks that day. Many of them quite good. To see mine just scroll down to my picture. greg

http://www.rifuture.org/greg-gerritts-speech-for-sierra-club-state-house-rally.html

http://www.rifuture.org/environment-is-everyones-business-rally-draws-a-crowd-to-the-state-house.html

 

 

RINPR whitewash on the baseball stadium

I went to the RINPR forum on the baseball stadium.  The audeience was strongly opposed to the stadium, or at least to a subsidy.  But the panel contained no community member of the opposition.  It contained Charles Steinberg of the Red Sox, an economist from Holy Cross, and an urban planner.  I guess RINPR was AFRAID that if they had a real opponent on the stage, one that would talk about the criminality of the rich stealing from the people and how increasing inequality is bad for communities, their fat cat donors like the RI Foundation would get upset.  Pathetic.  Class war has to be a part of this discussion or it is a whitewash and RINPR struck out.

One Rally, Two Speeches June 2015

I am speaking at a rally organized by Sierra Club on June 10 2015.  I worte a pretty good speech, then decided I needed somthing different. The second is differnt even though it starts with the same slogan.   I present them in the order I wrote them, and will read the second at the Rally.

You can not heal ecosystems without ending poverty, you can not end poverty without healing ecosystems, and we shall not do much of anything useful if we do not shut down the war machine and close the empire.

I have been watching the development of the New England and Rhode Island economies for more than 30 years, and the places I am most familiar with, Maine and Rhode Island, have consistently had an unemployment rate higher than the national average. I am aware and understand hard times in both rural America and urban America.

We are constantly told that Rhode Island needs a better business climate, but the reality is that Rhode Island actually needs to deal with Climate Change to put its economic house in order.

If we compare adjacent states with regressive versus progressive policies, Vermont and New Hampshire, Kansas and Missouri, Wisconsin and Minnesota in each pair the state that did not cut taxes for the rich and has maintained the integrity of the regulatory system has lower unemployment and better economic health. In other words doing exactly what the business climate prescription tells us to do gives us exactly the wrong answer.

We are also told that transparency and simple straightforward rules are the best, and I agree with that, but unfortunately the RI legislature continues to focus on sweetheart deals, real estate speculation, and tax cuts as its economic development strategy. This strategy has failed for 50 years, and betting on Meds and Eds on the I-195 lands development is going to work out just as well. Could there be something more typically Rhode Island than inside players getting the public to fund a baseball stadium on land that will be below sea level in the lifetime of some of the people assembled here today?

If Rhode Island is to get its economic house in order, the first thing it should do is develop a tax system that places a much bigger burden on the wealthy. Cutting taxes for the wealthy makes the economy more unequal and after Picketty, how can anyone take seriously supply side economics seriously. If the gap between rich and poor grows, especially after the end of real economic growth, (which is a story for another day) then everyone else is getting poorer, and it shows, as it does so brightly in Rhode Island. Tax cuts for the Rich in RI have not done a lick of good, but somehow the leadership of the legislature keeps talking about doing more of this.

After we get equality and justice right, or rather at the same time as we get equality and justice right, we have to get ecosystems right. Cut carbon emissions to zero, reforest the sprawl, and grow much more of our food right here. Go to zero waste. Compost. Implicit in a zero carbon society is solar and wind and wave energy. Restoring habitat for endangered species and cleaning up air and water emissions,have done wonders for the American economy. In spite of the serious efforts to destroy them and lies about what is actually going on. It is only when democracy is actually practiced that we can together deal with the war machine corruption, speculation, and ecosystem collapse that the 1% is shoveling on top of us.

Just as an aside there is only one organization on the planet that is planetary, that explicitly addresses the interrelationship of democracy, economy, ecology, equality, and peace, The Green Party, but for today, for here in Rhode Island in 2015, the takeaway is that the business climate game is a cruel joke on the people of Rhode Island and that stronger ecosystem protection, greater food security, solar and wind energy, and greater justice is what it will take to create prosperity in our communities in the future. And no public money for the millionaires baseball stadium. Keep the Pawsox in Pawtucket.

 

 

Take 2

You can not heal ecosystems without ending poverty, you can not end poverty without healing ecosystems, and if you do not shut down the war machine, you will not do any of it.

I thought about what to say, and could easily give you stump speech, but instead today I want to challenge you to think about something not really on the radar, the End of Economic Growth…
Ecosystems are in collapse, primarily to feed the ever expanding maw of consumerism. We must have MORE. And without MORE civilization will end. Excuse me, but what planet are they living on?

Here on Earth, we need to use less, and considering how many people really do NEED more, then the 1% and the middle class in the industrial world are going to have to use less.

Some people think that is impossible or it would be horrible. But we have to think about prosperity rather than growth. We have to reduce inequality, heal ecosystems, close the war machine, create zero carbon emissions, reforest and farm our sprawl. Not build shopping centers or the next big thing.
There is much spending we could easily eliminate in ways that mean a happier, healthier, and more vibrant community while spending less money and refusing to exploit workers around the world.

For Providence’s prosperity start with food security and turn the I-195 land into farms, not biomedical labs or baseball stadiums. If we keep thinking economic development starts with real estate speculation and subsidies for the rich, we shall be stuck forever. If we think we need to relax environmental protections to grow the economy faster, remind yourself that for 99% of us growth left town years ago, and ecosystem health underlies our prosperity.

The I-195 land is a brownfield, and I agree that brownfields are among the keys to the future of the RI economy, but not how the clowns on Smith Hill think about it, where giving subsidies and tax breaks to the rich is the only thing on the table.

I want you to think about the connection between brownfields and tropical forests. The 195 land destroyed neighborhoods 50 years ago, so it is hard to think about the people who lived there, but think about a place like Olneyville where the brownfields still are embedded in a neighborhood. Who lives there, and who will benefit from Brownfield redevelopment?

Now think about forests. Forest health may be the most important indicator of ecosystem health on Earth, and no one has ever figured out how to build cities without a new supply of wood. Now think about the people who live in forests, who are often he most marginalized and disenfranchised people in a country, just like those who live near brownfields. Usually the wood supply was obtained by genocide.

With the forest more than half gone and our ever growing understanding of how important forest are to our communities people are wondering how to keep the forests healthy. The World Bank did a study and figured out that the best way to preserve forests and help forest communities escape poverty is to give the forest dwellers secure tenure, and then make sure that any economic development projects keep the benefits in the hands of the poorest people in the community, usually women.

Brought to Providence it is clear that as long as the benefits from the development of brownfields is directed towards the speculators and the inside dealers (the same people who steal forests from the people who live there) instead of the benefits staying in the hands of the people in the community, our wealth gap will get worse, our economy and ecosystems will crumble and the world will be a more violent place.

Keep the Pawsox in Pawtucket and make sure the benefits of redevelopment flow to the poor, not the rich. This is how you heal ecosystems and create prosperous communities. And one day I hope the clowns of Smith Hill will begin to comprehend.

 

 

Jumping Tadpoles

I get to wander many of Providence’s wilder places on a pretty regular basis, and now that I have been taking wildlife videos in the North Burial Ground for several years I have become more knowledgeable about the wildlife in our city, as well as simply much more observant of the world around me.

With the dryness of this spring my usual haunt of the drainage swale is cracked mud and unless we get significant rains in the next week or two, it is unlikely that Fowler’s Toads or Gray Tree Frogs will breed there this year.  Luckily the other wet spot in the Burial Ground is a permanent pond that seems almost completely unaffected by the dry weather.  I have recorded two types of herons, many smaller birds, bats, at least two kinds of turtles, and a variety of other life this spring.  Many of these creatures are already posted on Moshassuckcritters, or will be by the time the fall rolls around.

This week i have been focusing on one of my favorite phenomena, the jumping Bullfrog tadpoles in the pond.  I have noticed this before, I have posted videos of it both of the last two years, but as is the case with all of this work, each year I probe a little deeper.

What I have learned, mostly from experience, followed by a bit of research, is that Bullfrog tadpoles tend to jump out of the water more the closer they get to becoming frogs.  Bullfrog tadpoles overwinter in the pond, with breeding in the late spring, development over the course of the summer, winter under the ice, and a spring growth spurt.  Last year for the first time I was able to capture in pixels first year Bullfrog tadpoles in the fall.  They are much bigger now.

As I did research I found a variety of things on why frog tadpoles jump out of the water, breeching like mini whales.  There is no one definitive answer, but what appears to be the case is that for some species of frogs the breeding ponds can become oxygen depleted, and as the frogs get closer to metamorphosis their lungs start to develop so they can breathe in the air, and need the oxygen.  This begs the question of why they need to expend so much energy jumping almost completely out of the water rather than just swimming to the surface of the pond.  For some species the jumping is a prelude to moving away from oxygen depleted and drying up ponds (always a problem for amphibians) and searching for new ponds.

The Bullfrogs I observe are in no danger of drying out, the pond is permanent, so while it may be oxygen depleted (I am guessing it is from the constant murk of dead algae blooms that color it coffee brown) the frogs are not going anywhere, and there are no other nearby waterbodies to move to except the Moshassuck River 200 yards away.

Some observers have suggested that tadpoles jump to escape predators.  This is entirely possible in some places and with some amphibian species, but in this case that seems most unlikely.  The only predators in the pond that this strategy would work on are snapping turtles, and there are at most 1 or 2 snappers in the pond.  Since the Bullfrog tadpoles are often simultaneously jumping all over the pond, clearly this is not the answer.

The final suggestion I have read is that this is innate behavior in the tadpoles that is preparing them for life as frogs.  As I write this I have no observations of legs on Bullfrog tadpoles yet this year, but that is probably as much due to the difficulty of observing tadpoles in the water in the murk, as anything, as with metamorphosis only 5 weeks away it is likely that legs are developing.  Based on my observations of leg development in Fowler’s Toad tadpoles, which i have studied intensively (check out “6 weeks in 90 Seconds” on the Moshassuckcritters Youtube channel) early stage legs in frogs are not much use, but s they develop the frogs use them more and more in locomotion, though as swimmers rather than jumpers until the front legs break out just as metamorphosis is  starting.

Therefore it is most reasonable to think that as tadpole bodies are slowly preparing to be frogs that jumping would start to become a part of the behavioral repertoire even before the legs are quite ready to use.  The exercising of muscles other than those in the legs that are part of the complex of muscles needed to jump as adult frogs could easily lead to jumping tadpoles with tiny legs.

My research is incomplete, and likely to be more complicated by the serious lack of knowledge/research in the field, so I will have to leave us pondering the relationship between low oxygen ponds and the development process in determing why Bullfrog tadpoles start jumping in May in Providence.  But what ever the reason the breeching mini whales are fun to watch, and I offer up this video.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Speaker Mattiello still wants to give away the farm

To the Editor,

I was horrified to read in the May 20 Providence Journal article entitled “Mattiello: Next pitch is the state’s” that the Speaker of the Rhode Island House is still trying to make a deal over the baseball stadium. Obviously he is not listening to the public. I attended the public forum at Hope HS on May 18 and other than someone who thought they might get a construction job for a few months building the stadium, not one person thought it was a good idea to provide any state or city tax subsidy to a bunch of millionaires trying to extort money from the public by threatening to leave. I am a baseball fan, as were most of the others at the hearing. But none of us thought giving away the public’s money was a good idea, and many thought the site was very flawed.

For a Speaker laser focused on economic development, Representative Mattiello is missing the boat on this too. There is no financial gain for the people from this by any measure, giving a public subsidy to very wealthy people will only serve to increase inequality, and as Picketty demonstrated recently, growing inequality harms economies. Economic development in the 21st Century is a bottom up, not a top down, proposition. That Rhode Island continues to think top down, and gives sweetheart deals to inside players, is why our economy does not work very well.
Greg Gerritt

An open letter to RI Speaker Nicholas mattiello

Speaker Nicholas A. Mattiello,

I have been carefully watching the discussion about the effort to move the Pawsox to the Providence waterfront. I do not think it is a good idea, and the public seems to overwhelmingly oppose providing subsidies to this effort. Sometimes it appears that you are the only person publicly talking about trying to cut a deal that includes a public subsidy.

I am aware that you have said that this deal in no way resembles 38 Studios, but in one critical way so far it does. It is being negotiated without the official voice of the people involved. I think you are aware that if there had been public hearings on using the people’s money to fund 38 Studios the State of Rhode Island would not have made such a big mistake that we are still paying for. The second example I offer is one that is rarely mentioned, but may be an even more appropriate example. The proposal to build a container port at Quonset was very strongly supported by the political leadership of Rhode Island. The Governor, the Speaker, the well connected law firms all weighed in on it. But even so there was a very extensive public process, with stakeholders, studies, and public hearings. I was a stakeholder in the process so I am very aware of how well it worked, how much better everyone was informed by the process. The end result was that the more we knew, the worse the deal sounded, and eventually the proponents went away. If the State of Rhode Island had acted upon the first political impulse we would have opened a new port at exactly when the global recession hit and the people of Rhode Island would have been on the hook for about $1 Billiom dollars.

We all know the old expression, all of us collectively are smarter than any one of us. I ask one thing. Before you sign off on any deal, before you commit the people of RI to any financial support of the Providence Waterfront baseball stadium, hold public hearings. Ask the people of Rhode Island for their collective wisdom. The track record of the people on these sorts of things is very good. We saved the state $1 Billion and could have saved another $100 million if we had been allowed to participate in the process. Please publicly commit yourself to a full public process before committing any of our money to the baseball stadium.

Greg Gerritt

Edit

Infrastucture Bank versus baseball stadium

Rhode Island needs an infrastructure bank. And while the details are not 100% worked out there is much to recommend in the Governor and General Treasurer’s Rhode Island Infrastructure Bank proposal. Hopefully the details will create a workable infrastructure for the bank, but today lets focus on the idea.

If you take a good hard look at where the RI economy is going, we are in a very low growth phase. The conditions for rapid economic growth do not exist in Rhode Island, and cutting taxes for the rich and dismantling environmental and health regulations are not going to get us there. Given the low growth conditions, the only way to improve the well being of most Rhode Islanders is to create a healthy and resilient infrastructure designed specifically to help our communities respond properly to the climate change, food insecurity, and rising inequality that are currently haunting us.

It really is that simple. So I want to contrast the public investment in infrastructure with the proposal to build a baseball stadium on the Providence waterfront. In the May 3 Providence Journal there is a lengthy article detailing that the proposed baseball stadium would undo all of the efforts to properly manage stormwater throughout the I-195 lands because they would no longer have green open space to absorb water. And it would cost millions to move the stormwater infrastructure already in place.

The people of RI in this case are given a very contrasting set of choices. On one hand give $120 million of the public’s money to some people to build a baseball stadium that would contribute mightily to increasing the cost of managing stormwater, or investing the public’s money in Green Infrastructure that increases community resilience and safety, helps us cope with climate change, and creates more new jobs than a baseball stadium moving jobs that are now a mere 5 miles away. Of course these are not our only choices, but if the people of RI are investing in construction, it is pretty clear which one benefits us more. Support the Rhode Island Infrastructure Bank.

Critique of REMI

I went to a talk about Carbon Pricing and what it might do to the RI economy by Scott Nystrom of REMI today.  I read the report yesterday.  The report was fine, said a carbon tax would not in any way hurt the RI economy.  But I learned some stuff about how REMI works that help me understand how the state of Maine got a report that did not answer any useful questions about how banning clearcutting was going to affect the economy.

One of the keys was openly stated.  The report stated it absolutely did not take into account the effect of climate change on the economy.  That jarred me into realizing that the report the State of Maine used against our campaign stating the effect of banning clearcutting on the Maine economy absolutely refused to use any data on the health of the forest and its depletion rate at that time.

Given that cutting practices in Maine changed dramatically in the years after the failed attempts to ban clearcutting, primarily because of the health of the forest and the depletion of the woods, clearly the REMI report , the use of the REMI model in situations involving natural systems that are being degraded, leaves much to be desired and provides truly false information to the public looking at the policy implications.

Given this flaw, maybe what we need is a study looking at the types of studies REMI has done over the last 30+ years to see how accurate they are.  Obviously they must have that information since they must use it to refine their methodology and equations.  I would love to see a report by REMI discussing which situations are the hardest for them to get right over time with a special emphasis on natural resource systems subject to depletion.  I did notice that the map in the presentation today did not include any studies done in Maine, so maybe REMI is in denial.

 

The Economic Growth Machine and Rhode Island

The Economic Growth Machine and Rhode Island  Greg Gerritt
I have a great deal of concern about the techniques the political elite in Rhode Island use in their efforts to elevate the rate of economic growth. My concerns come from the likelihood that the gyrations they perform are likely to do more harm than good to most of the people in our community. The reason the prescriptions of the elite are unlikely to work is that they are based on a misreading of the underlying conditions of the economy and a misreading of trends in the economy. The basic assumption of the RI political elite is that there can be extended periods of 3+% economic growth per year. Periods long enough to return Rhode Island to “full employment” so that the state’s coffers are filled.

I find this rather odd because a more honest assessment of the RI economy ( and I have been observing closely for 18 years) and its place in the global and national economies makes it rather clear that Rhode Island is not going to be a global growth leader, it does not have any of the conditions that would boost Rhode Island into an above average growth rate. And improving the “business climate” will improve the growth rate no more than 5%, in other words from 2% to 2.1%

For the last 50 years the average growth rate of the human economy on planet Earth has been 3.8% per year. No other 50 year period in the history of the planet has had a growth rate as high. Prior to the industrial revolution (1759 the year the development of the steam engine gave a jump start to the mining of coal in very large quantities) global growth rates were about 1%. Since 1759 they have averaged about 2%, and more and more reputable observers have written about how hard it will be to keep growth rates much above 2% going forward. In the last few years the growth rate globally has been 3.4% ( China is not likely to see a 10% growth rate ever again) and the US has had growth rates of 2.3, 2.4, and 2.2% the last 3 years, years touted as prime for economic recovery.

If growth rates are slowing, and what else could happen as the world’s resources and sinks come closer and closer to the brink of depletion, then half the world’s people will be experiencing growth rates above average and half of the people will experience growth rates below what is now a 3.4% global growth rate that will diminish going forward. Careful study has revealed what kind of places will be experiencing above average growth and which areas are likely to be experiencing below average growth.

In all likelihood places rapidly bringing on line new sources of minerals (fossil fuel and hard rock) will have high growth rates. Places rapidly destroying their forests will have fairly high growth rates. Places that are rapidly urbanizing ( moving people off the farms and out of the forest and into factories ) will have above average growth rates. Financial centers and very large urban areas (megacities) with one of a very few high tech or financial industry clusters will have above average growth rates. Everyone else is out of luck unless they learn to use less and share more. Adding to this trauma is that in many places well over 90% of the growth in income is ending up in the hands of 1 or 2% of the population, so even if RI reached 3% growth, 95% of us would still be getting poorer.

Given that RI does not have any of the four characteristics of rapidly growing areas ( despite our best attempts to convince high tech and advance life sciences companies to move here) it is likely that the people of Rhode Island are going to be among the 4 billion people living with less than average growth. We are not a basket case, so our growth rates are likely to be in the 1.8 to 2.2% area for the next few years unless we let our growing inequality go crazy, or we get slapped even harder by climate change, in which case our growth rate will slow further. We should also note that one of the key industries RI seems to want to hang its hat on, the medical industrial complex, is going to be unable to grow in any way that helps us if health care costs are out of control and drawing money away from other sectors of the economy.

Given this scenario, that RI will experience slower than average growth and only hold our position if we make sure our inequality does not get worse and we improve the health and resilience of our ecosystems, the realistic goal for Rhode Island is how do we get the greatest prosperity under conditions of relatively slow growth. Unfortunately the obsession with the business climate, the cutting of taxes and regulations, the running roughshod over communities and ecosystems, the further marginalization of the poor are likely to make our chances of achieving prosperity even more remote.

Rhode Island has a chance to create a more resilient and fairer economy. But tax breaks and giveaways to the already wealthy will lead to further deterioration of our communities, not an economic bonanza. It is time for an economy for the people, not the plutocrats, with food security and climate resilience at its center based on a clear understanding of how to live in a low growth environment.

I have been involved in the political process for over 30 years, and I understand that politicians must promise peace and prosperity to get elected, especially in the big money media frenzy politics we now endure, but it is time that some truth about growth rates and the long term trends in the economy entered the debate. If the truth is not part of the debate, I truly worry for Rhode Island.

Response to interesting article on development

I do not know where I fit into this categorization. I work alone under the name of ProsperityForRI.com, which is my blog. Sometimes I think I am a writer, writing about why economic development does not work very well in my community, but I am also in the trenches, attending tons of hearings, influencing policy makers, and helping to create new industries in my community (compost).

Most of my work really focuses on helping the developers, private and public, understand that their plans are totally unrealistic and that their ideas ar3e based on an economy that no longer exists. All of their work assumes that if we get the business climate right we can have an economic growth rate over 3%. I constantly remind them that Rhode Island, as an old industrial place with limited natural resources is going to have a growth rate below the national average, probably in the 2% range in a good year, and that our growth rate has nothing to do with our business climate. The materials I read from C2ER are an important part of my understanding of the economy and how that relates to my community. I think everyone should read the Kansas Inc study that showed that business climates have a miniscule effect on the economy, but the people who think up the crazy economic development policies in Rhode Island think that fast growth is just around the corner if we could only get rid of the poor and let the rich do whatever they want. of course they have thought this for 50 years and have been wrong forever.

I would like to see more from you on how communities ought to be much more honest about the slowing of global growth and where their community fits into this, but the politicians are completely in denial about what growth rates are possible. And always seduced by what the Chamber of Commerce and the Koch brothers tell them they could have if they would cut taxes and throw more inner city kids out of school.

– See more at: http://journal.c2er.org/2015/03/what-the-heck-is-going-on-with-local-economic-development/#sthash.X56RtAAn.dpuf

A letter to Governor Raimondo on economic development

Dear Governor Raimondo, I am writing about several different, but connected, topics relating to the Rhode Island economy.

The trigger for this letter is the effort by the new owners to move the Pawtucket Red Sox to the Providence waterfront. Personally I think it is a very bad idea, and that seems to be the statewide consensus based on letters to the paper and comments sent to the Summit neighborhood email list as well as conversations I have had. My request on this is that there be public hearings on this before anything happens. My guess is that if there are public hearings the outcry will be overwhelming and no board that had any public consciousness would give a permit. Then there is the issue of the richest men in the state asking for a subsidy for their hobby. Please publicly state that before anything happens you would like to see a full public airing of this topic. I have talked to various agencies in RI and the CRMC, the I-195 Commission, and the City of Providence all agreed that public hearings seemed a good thing, though all were constrained by the lack of any formal proposal in front of them. You do not need to be so constrained, and calling for a public airing at a time when another politician has admitted corruption around real estate development, would feed into a move towards better ethics legislation. A full public discussion sooner rather than later helps us all figure this out, one way or the other, at an earlier time with less overall cost.

Given the recent record of the political leadership of Rhode Island on major economic development projects, and Rhode Islanders well founded fear and dislike of the inside baseball politics of economic development, the proposal to move the Paw Sox just seems so Rhode Island. You and I are both familiar with the disaster of 38 Studios, a disaster that likely would not have happened if the decisions had been made after public hearings. You may not be as familiar with the public discussion of the proposed container port at Quonset. I was a stakeholder and participated in every public meeting from a seat at the table. If the governor and the legislature had had their way, 38 Studios would look like a child sized disaster compared to the billion dollar price tag of a port that would have opened as the recession hit. It was the public outcry and resolve that finally allowed the outing of the con men who had conned the leaders of the State with visions of dollar signs dancing in their heads.

I will come back to this last point shortly but first I want to flag the issue of what is the appropriate use of the land in the knowledge district given our current placing of meds and eds at the heart of our economic development strategy.

The evidence is pretty clear that baseball stadiums are not big economy boosters. Building a baseball stadium on the waterfront, in addition to depriving the public of waterfront access (which in and of itself is a major issue with large financial implications for the taxpayers)) brings into question the entire meds and eds strategy as it relates to the use of the I-195 land. Devoting that much land to baseball and parking, especially on the waterfront, is probably not a smart move. Baseball creates few well paying jobs, few full time jobs.

I have serious problems with the strategy of placing meds and eds at the heart of economic development. Both industries are at about the limits of what the American public can pay for, and are leading causes of bankruptcies and stunted asset acquisition, but that is a discussion for another day. The question today is does the baseball stadium fit in with the best way to use the land to enhance the city? If we are betting on a Knowledge District, then this is not the way to do it.

Beyond the immediate question of a baseball stadium, economic development strategy in RI needs to be better adapted to the changing world economy, but not in the ways most folks talk about. What Rhode Island needs to adapt to is slowing growth rates globally and an understanding that our growth rate is going to be generally below average. Our growth rate will be below average not because of our business climate (though the inside baseball audacity of Mr. Skeffinton astounds, and these types of subsidies do not reflect well in the rankings) but primarily because most of the economic growth that does occur globally and in the US will end up in the few places that are global financial centers, the places that are rapidly industrializing low wage countries with rural populations to urbanize, and places with short lived natural resource booms. Rhode Island has none of these advantages and our growth rate is therefore going to be slightly below the slowing global and US growth rates even if we were the perfect business climate groupie.

Many people question the idea that growth is slowing, and politicians are extremely reluctant to even think about it, but more and more reputable experts are recognizing it. Even the global consulting firm McKinsey sent out a recent report noting that it is going to be very difficult to maintain current growth rates in the medium to long term due to changes in the economy and in planetary ecosystems. Planning for a slower growth rate, and understanding how to achieve maximum prosperity with slow growth, does not appear to be on the agenda, but it ought to be along with Full Cost Accounting. The current political climate calls for a “good business climate” despite the fact that business climates are remarkably persistent over time despite years of political rhetoric and legislative action, that business climates have very little overall effect on state economies (less than 5% of the growth rate is attributable to tax rates and transparency of bureaucracies) , and that it is clear that a good business climate creates greater inequality and that greater inequality is one of the things that hold back economies. Again a much larger discussion but one I would be willing to have with you and your advisers at your convenience.

In summation, I do not know if we can convince the new ownership of the Triple A Red Sox to return to Pawtucket, but we can make sure that any attempt to move to Providence gets a full public hearing. You should insist on the public hearing and then turn attention to what all of this reveals about the new world of economic development in post industrial Rhode Island.

Sincerely,

Greg Gerritt Research Director ProsperityForRI.com

Business climates mean nothing

In the March 3, 2015 Providence Journal there was an article “RI 42nd in business climate”. I looked at the most recent available data from the Bureau of Economic Analysis and RI was 33rd in rate of growth. Disparities like this are common, and more and more it is obvious that the business climate has little to do with actual economic performance.

Business climate rankings are an ideological test, not a ranking that has anything to do with real world performance. They are put together by people with a preference for the power of the rich rather than the welfare of the community. According to Kansas Inc no more than 5% of a state’s economic growth rate is determined by factors taken into account by business climate rankings. In other words if Rhode Island followed the prescriptions of the business climate rankers our growth rate might go from 2.2% to 2.3% while damaging our ecosystems and increasing inequality. It is time that Rhode Island, and especially Rhode Island politicians, stopped paying any attention to the business climate rankings.

Greg Gerritt

Economic Growth, Economic Policy and the Pawsox

The Bureau of Economic Analysis released its new economic growth numbers today.
http://www.bea.gov/newsreleases/national/gdp/gdpnewsrelease.htm

A few things i want to ruminate on.

“Real gross domestic product — the value of the production of goods and services in the United States, adjusted for price changes — increased at an annual rate of 2.2 percent in the fourth quarter of 2014, according to the “second” estimate released by the Bureau of Economic Analysis. In the third quarter, real GDP increased 5.0 percent.”

This is a good one. The good times rolled in the third quarter. At 5% we could keep up with China. We fell back to earth in the 4th quarter, 2.2%, which just so happens to match the growth rate in each of the last 3 years. Interestingly the biggest swings in spending were by the federal government, especially in the defense sector.

“2014 GDP

Real GDP increased 2.4 percent in 2014 (that is, from the 2013 annual level to the 2014 annual level), compared with an increase of 2.2 percent in 2013.”
The chart that followed also included the 2012 number, 2.3%. GDP growth in the last few years has been remarkably consistent the last few years, 2.2 to 2.4%. Actually the economy has been averaging something in the low two’s for quite a while. The national average includes things like the fracking boom towns of North Dakota (growth rate in 2013 15%) and Texas, the financial and entertainment centers of the universe, and the rural counties of Mississippi.

An honest assessment of Rhode Island puts us slightly below the national average in assets and growth potential. We are not a natural resource boom town, we are not a mega city and financial center. We are an old industrial place that lost out when the nation stopped being water-powered and we were no longer cheap labor. Despite the screams of the John Birchers (I was handed a John Birch Society pamphlet at a public hearing recently), the heroic efforts of the business climate obsessives, and the promises of the legislature the fundamentals of the Rhode Island economy remain those of a post industrial medium sized city that is vulnerable to the vagaries of climate change and the slowing global economy.

RI public policy is predicated on rapid growth, 3.2% on average. A better understanding of ourselves, especially of how economy works in a 2% growth world, would go a long way towards aligning policy with bringing prosperity to our communities rather than just filling the coffers of the few.

The cause du jour for this sermon is the effort by some of the wealthiest men in New England to move the Pawsox to a park in Providence. Rhode Island has a sordid history on this sort of thing, Big money crushing communities and demanding subsidies or threatening to go elsewhere with their money. I do not like the deal, but who cares. The one thing you should care about is making sure that the whole deal gets a very full public airing and that this is followed by a series of public hearings in all the affected communities. Today I have been making calls seeking a hearing and CRMC says it will hold one if they get a formal application, but the effected cities should also hold hearings for the public to air their concerns.

The more I read about the land in question, the less I like the deal. Either stealing public parks and waterfront or admitting that the knowledge district is more fantasy than reality. Neither makes us look good. The first thing the lords of Triple A should do is state that since they believe they are high rent economic development they are willing to pay fair market value for any land they build upon including all of the land they use for parking. Let the public airing truly begin before this develops any momentum and any more palms get greased.

Pawsox to Provsox

There are a number of reasons why moving the Pawsox from Pawtucket to Providence is pretty numb, and there are numerous reasons why people have a right to be unhappy at this transaction. But even more astonishing is how anyone among the new owners, especially those involved in any way in the policy discussions on economic development in Rhode Island, could see the !-195 lands as an appropriate place for a baseball stadium.

For years RI leadership has been touting the I-195 lands as the economic savior of Providence with all the potential of the “Knowledge District approach to economic development”. How in hell could they acquiesce to the use of these lands for a baseball stadium and its attendant parking lots.

I have a long track record of stating that the medical industrial economy is not a good foundation upon which to build an economy. Betting your economy on the leading cause of bankruptcy in the country seems a strange strategy and there is no doubt the medical industrial complex has played a big role in growing inequality in the American economy. My warnings about the expectations of growth from the medical industrial economy have been ignored and the bandwagon for high tech medicine continued. But now we have a proposal to throw that all away for a baseball stadium despite overwhelming evidence that sports arenas do not really help downtowns and create few family supporting jobs.

If the politicians go for the stadium, I almost hate to say it, it will prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that even politicians have realized that the medical industrial economy is not going to do what they have been saying it would do all these years and it is time to give up. But i will say that giving up on the medical industrial economy can be done without doing anything as astronomically dumb as building a baseball stadium and parking lots. I sure hope the RI politicians will hold out for a better use of the I-195 lands than to sign it away to the lords of baseball.

From the Bottom Up, Regulations and Economic Development

The mantra says if you lower taxes and reduce regulations the invisible hand of the market will bring you prosperity and perpetual growth. The facts do not bear this out.

The reality is closer to if you lower taxes on the rich and reduce regulations on polluters the few who are already rich will benefit while the rest of the community will be harmed and poorer. The underlying assumption of the already wealthy is that economic development policy should be geared towards making them wealthier with trickle down carrying benefits to the larger community. The results have been 99% of the growth in income going to 1% of the population while 60% of Americans are getting poorer. In low income neighborhoods, economic development that actually reduces poverty and benefits communities is a bottom up process. The use of assets to generate wealth must place the overwhelming majority of the benefits in the hands of the poorest members of the community if poverty is to be reduced. This is why gentrification and real estate driven development is so problematic. The benefits flow out of the community into the hands of “developers”. We merely displace the poor to another spot. This process mirrors almost exactly what is happening to tropical forest communities as their economies change. When the community gets secure tenure to the forest, everyone benefits. When the forest is no longer locally controlled, it disappears, the children get hungry, and those people who do not die move to shanty towns. Until brownfields are turned into assets that directly benefit the people already living in the neighborhood poverty can be shifted to another location, but it will not be eliminated.

On the regulatory issue, everyone agrees that the process should be efficient, fair, transparent and reasonably swift. The problem is that as the government and its prodders seek to streamline the process they also seek to reduce the quality of protections for the public, AND they seek to cut the public out of the process. If you remember the bottom up approach from the previous paragraph, then you know that cutting the community out of the process of seeing if a particular project is appropriate for the community almost guarantees failure, and in Rhode Island, almost guarantees inside dealings. As we streamline the permitting process it is critical to our success as a state to make it easier for communities to intervene at the appropriate times and places and to stop bad projects.

History tells us that when the wealthy are allowed to do as they please, it almost always comes to a bad end. We all know how bad 38 Studios turned out for the people of Rhode Island, and we also know that public hearings would have shown the politicos the folly of the project. We need to remember that the flip side of this is the public involvement that helped stop the building of a container port in Quonset, much to the chagrin of the governor, the legislature, and the growth obsessives. The public outcry, sustained over an 18 month period, prevented a one billion dollar debacle that the taxpayers would still be paying off.

In our neighborhoods, as the greening of the economy becomes ever more important and critical for our prosperity, to streamline the regulatory process to the point where the public is streamlined right out of the picture means that truly inappropriate buildings will get built in truly inappropriate places. The long term economic benefits will disappear when in our haste to give out permits we create floods that could have been prevented.

You can not end poverty without healing ecosystems, you can not heal ecosystems without ending poverty, and if Rhode Island wants prosperity we need to stop genuflecting to those who demand that we help them line their pockets through less regulation and lower taxes.

Economic Growth in Rhode Island

To the Editor,
The article “Economy grows despite weakness” in the February 18, 2015 Projo reported that the economic growth rate in Rhode Island was lower in the 4th quarter, 1.8% compared to 2.4% in the third quarter, and lower than was anticipated. Rhode Island’s economy is growing slower than the global average, the national average and the regional average. John Simmons comment ”trending lower… is a sign that the state economy has inherent weakness” seems to be in line with the sentiments of Rhode Island’ political leadership.

Simmons, and the rest of the business climate obsessives keep thinking they can pump up the growth rate by becoming “business friendly”, but any honest assessment of our growth potential will conclude that Rhode Island is going to be one of the places with a slower economic growth rate.

Instead of obsessing about a faster growth rate, the people of Rhode Island might be better served by a government that seeks a greater and more widespread prosperity in a low growth environment via ecological helping and economic justice.

Rapid growth will occur only in places that have the right conditions: New natural resource exploitation industries like fracking, rapidly expanding newly industrializing cities growing as rural people are driven off the land, or megacities with large financial sectors. Half the world will have growth that is below average. The sooner we learn to accept our low growth rate and create public policy that creates prosperity in our communities even under conditions of low growth, the better.
Greg Gerritt
Providence RI

 

Response to sustainable wood for instruments release

Glad the musicians are finally getting this. The current deforestation phase is only the continuation of 500 years of colonialism, standing on 10,000 years of urbanism. Stealing the resources of the forest is the only way empires and cities grow. The reality of climate change is just making it hip, but we have long known that leaving the forest in the hands of the forest people is much better for the forest and the world.

Musicians understand intellectual property and how the corporates screw them using the laws. It is completely analogous to what is happening to forest people.Outsiders with connections getting rich by stealing their forest. It is also how economic development works in brownfield communities where the benefits of development never ends up in the hands of the people who live there, they just get displaced again.

walking in a winter wonderland

I love being out in the snow. Hate being cold and wet. But once I learned how to dress, being out in the snow became a true joy. My favorite activity used to be cutting firewood in a low wind snowfall in the north woods. Hauling it home on the sled. Watching the big flakes

Instead of the woods and country roads I now walk Providence, and while I still love snow, walking is more difficult here, and most definitely more dangerous.

I love walking my neighborhood, on 6th St the block is shoveled from top to bottom including the corners, and most residential streets are well shoveled, with many people even creating places to cross at the corners. The North Burial Ground is also a treat. Might be plowed better than anywhere else in the city, and if you take the back streets, you can almost avoid North Main St. while getting there.

North Main St has never been a great place for winter walking. From 6th St going south on the east side of the street the block between 4th and 5th as usual took a bit longer than they should have to clear some hazards and the corner is still bad. I made a call to city hall about N Main St yesterday asking that they do some enforcement among the scofflaws, so that could have made a difference at some of the places on N Main getting it together late yesterday and today, but I will never know. I have now requested that Miriam and Home and Hospice clear their sidewalks, and the crew from the Burial Ground was snow blowing that stretch of N Main St. I had been cutting through the burial ground instead of using the sidewalk, now I can go back to the sidewalk. I did not go as far as Branch this morning, but as of Thursday that intersection was still not pedestrian friendly. The highway overpass on Industrial is always neglected from a pedestrian perspective, though the mini-mall just to the north had shoveled their sidewalk, a most unusual occurrence. The areas near University Shopping Mall is a disgrace. A BIG RI mall developer, CARPIONATO, ALWAYS LEAVES THEIR N MAIN SIDEWALK UNSHOVELED, Yes, it is a poorly designed sidewalk, and there is no place to put the snow, but that stretch of N Main is critical to connectivity and that stretch needs to be kept passable ALL winter. There are ways to do it. Charles and Canal were difficult near the river. River frontage with no building is considered no man’s land for shoveling, despite the fact that these spots are key transportation corridors for all transportation modes from canals, to trains to interstates, to traditional walking paths, to Rt 1. It is clearly the city’s responsibility for clearing overpasses and river frontage like Canal St. and it is one they totally neglect.

Downtown, the Downtown Improvement Program, funded by special levies, clears the sidewalks. Always passable. Heading out Broad St the I-95 crossing was hard walking or in the street walking and south of the 3 High Schools the fast food area created one of the most dangerous hazards to pedestrians, the driveway plowing that blocks the sidewalk. This is one I really do not get. Or rather get and am disgusted by it. A fast food or convenience store shows parking lot to the street. Plows its driveway and parking lot, piles the snow on the sidewalk between the driveways and at the edge of the property. Never clear their own sidewalk. One year I did an action on a convenience store. I shoveled the snow piled up on the sidewalk into their driveway. An hour later they had shoveled their sidewalk.

How hard could it be for these businesses having their contractor clearing the driveway do the sidewalk or at least not block the sidewalk any worse than it already is? Maybe they need a sidewalk contractor? But mostly it would mean paying attention.

I have not yet been south of my office on Rice St, so I can not say what is to the south, but experience shows that buildings in distress, buildings for sale, buildings with absentee landlords and weak management leave gaps in the shoveling, the corners will be difficult, and driveway plowers will block sidewalks leaving pedestrians in dead ends with knew deep snow and 6 ft mounds to cross.

Maybe it is a pipedream, but given the state of the world, cities are going to have to become more pedestrian friendly all year round. Maybe we shall know we have achieved climate resilience nirvana when after a snowstorm it is just as easy to walk around the city as to use any other means of transport. The current model of making someone a second class citizen for having a lower carbon footprint does not seem like a good strategy to me.

war and peace

To the editor,

The op-ed in January 23rd’s Providence Journal entitled “US, French foreign policy invites terrorism” is probably the most intelligent and accurate description of what is going on in the world that I have read in the Providence Journal in years. Though a teenager, Raymond Mancini demonstrates a better historical perspective and understanding of human nature and justice than any of the public officials making policy in Washington DC today.

You would think that Senator Reed, with his years of military service and years of service on the military oriented committees of the Senate would have figured out what Mr. Mancini has figured out, but Senator Reed and the rest of RI’s congressional delegation keep voting money for policies that keep blowing back on America and its allies.

If we keep bombing weddings, if we keep invading countries, if we keep military bases in over 100 countries, and reserve the right to kill, maim, and torture anyone we want we shall have frustrated people to stop Americans from invading their countries by all available means. The way to peace is not war, it is the withdrawal of American military personnel from the Middle East. That a teenager knows this better than any member of Congress, better than the President, and better than any member of the bureaucracy tells us we are in for some very hard times. At least until the generation of Raymond Mancini stops the stupid wars and ends the American torture machine.

Speaker Mattiello under a cloud.

Recently I saw an op ed in the paper that tells me I am not the only person questioning whether the current Speaker of the House, Nicholas Mattiello, is the right man for the job. One of the leaders of the Progressive Democrats of RI concluded that the policy prescriptions of the Speaker are seriously out of alignment with the Democratic Party and the people of Rhode Island. That the Speaker sells his own party down the river is of no concern to me, I expect such shenanigans, but the policy prescriptions that the Speaker offers are seriously out of whack. Likely to make the economic problems worse in Rhode Island rather than alleviate them.

My special concern is issues along the ecology/economy interface and the economic development of low income communities, and I will come back to why the Speaker’s economic policy prescriptions will be ineffective due to ignoring ecological healing and economic justice another day, but today I want to point out one more problem the Speaker will bring to Rhode Island.
Given the recent history of RI Speaker’s of the House leaving office under a cloud, I am guessing that there is something inherent in the position and the men seeking it that causes the men seeking to be Speaker to be ethically challenged. The competition is so cut throat, especially in the scramble to fill the position when the Speaker leaves under a cloud, that anyone with a shred of ethics has no chance. The least qualified to lead therefore get the job.

The temptations these ethically challenged people have once they assume the mantle of speaker of the House in Rhode Island overwhelm them, especially when so much of their focus is the 100 year struggle to fix the Rhode Island economy, a post industrial economy centered on a mid size city in an age of mega cities.

Because of the sluggish economy in Rhode Island the obsession with economic development leads us to confuse real estate speculation with actual economic development. This belief that real estate speculation is economic development seems to have a particularly nasty twist when it comes to Speakers of the RI House as many of the recent occupants of the hot seat come to it from an occupational history as lawyers involved in the business of real estate transactions.

There are a number of problems with this beyond skewing the Speaker’s understanding of economic development in the 21st Century. The first and foremost is that real estate speculation in old industrial places like Rhode Island is not in any way a capitalist enterprise. Nearly all development except the spreading of sprawl into the exurbs happens with subsidies from the public.

Picture it. Most powerful man in RI, sets policy, directs investment, signs off on subsidies. He comes to the office already immersed in the real estate industry, including its use of subsidies and desire to drain every wetland. An industry that is already a huge source of money for state and local elections (mostly because of its need for subsidies), and the basic source of corruption in our communities. The Speaker of the House is right in the center of the fetid swamp enjoying the water.

As far as I know Speaker Mattiello is not currently under investigation and there is no word of his being involved in any corrupt dealings other than selling out the people of Rhode Island, which seems to be legal. But the combination of real estate oriented lawyer Speakers and the need for subsidies in the industry is so powerful that I am not asking if Speaker Mattiello will eventually have to leave under a cloud, only when. In the mean time we shall be subject to horrible and ineffective policy due to the anti regulatory, anti community, pro inequality memes that have already infested his brain due to his day job.

nibbling around the edges

We live in a time of great happenings.  War, revolution, climate change, food insecurity, space flights, modern medicine, and the internet.  Events are pulling communities in a multitude of directions simultaneously.  In a billion small ways the people of the Earth are rising to the challenges of our times, but our large institutions, the places where power accumulates, have done almost nothing of value for many years.  The large institutions, the domains of the rich and powerful, have regularly made crisies worse and contributed very little towards solutions.  The systems in which the few govern the many are failing.  Our communities demand more action than just the nibbling around the edges that our powerful institiuons will do as a way to pretend they care.  Nibbling around the edges is an excuse for not doing anything useful and an effort to pull wool over our eyes.  Nibbling around the edges will not solve the climate crisis.

 

it is time to root out corporatism, racism, and the fossil fuel and war industries from our communities.     Praise to the activists in New York who just threw a big monkey wrench into the fracking machine.  It is when we actually practice democracy that we shall rise to the great challenges of our time.

The US as a rogue nation

It seems like everyone on the planet is sick of the stupid games that the American Government plays.  A nation steeped in genocide and slavery and the violence necessary to keep such a stupid game going has created a domestic politics that makes useful engagement with everyone else on the planet nearly impossible.

Torture and climate change probably lead the list of American missteps, but policies around nuclear weapons, healthcare, privacy, destroying villages in order to save them, racism, trade and aid policies that are welfare for wealthy American lobbyists/campaign contributors, the world’s largest arms industry, spying on everyone, killing for oil, propping up dictators, arming Israel, and helping US banks and the financial industry loot the world also rank pretty high on the list of stupid things done by the American government, that currently leave Washington DC heads spinning as the US faces the global resistance to American madness.

Killing for peace is not working. The empire is bankrupting us and has not made us any safer.  Unfortunately in the US the domestic politics of failure in military adventurism results in ever greater violence and lunacy on the part of the rich and religious fundamentalists, further feeding the rolling disaster.  The militarization of American police forces, matching the violence blasted from American weapons around the world can not bring us to healthy communities.

Unfortunately for the American ruling class and fundamentalists just as drone warfare is getting us nowhere in Asia,  police violence backfiring here as well.  And on that hopeful note I bid you good day.

 

Speaker Mattiello is wrong again

To the Editor,

I have followed the RhodeMap RI process pretty carefully, including going to many hearings and submitting extensive written comments. I do not think the plan adequately addresses economic inequality, food security or climate change, but it is by far better than most RI state planning documents.

When RI House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello voiced his opposition to the plan, joining with the Tea Party, the Koch brother funded American Legislative Exchange Council, and their puppet, the RI Center for Freedom and Prosperity, Speaker Mattiello demonstrated a complete lack of understanding of how racism, economic inequality, and climate change are harming Rhode Island, and specifically harming our economy.

As long as the Democrats on Smith Hill continue to support Representative Mattiello as speaker Rhode Island is going to be in for some very hard times.

Greg Gerritt

 

Analyzing the headlines on December 2 2014

This morning’s headlines in the Providence Journal were so inspirational.  Here is my reaction to a few.  greg

“I-195 deal hinges on tax breaks”

How these developers can honestly call themselves capitalists is beyond me.  How dare the rich ask for tax breaks.  Hypocrites.  But even more it is an indictment of the system.  That land can not be redeveloped without assistance calls into question the whole system.  it calls into question the need for ever higher real estate values to fuel the economy, and makes very clear that higher real estate values are a big problem for our communities not the solution.  We need to use that land for food production and understand that demanding ever higher prices each time land turns over is crazy.

 

“Passenger traffic on descent at Green”

This has been going on for 8 years or so, and will continue.  What makes it so interesting is that while traffic at Green goes down (maybe because I have given up flying?) the state keeps spending more money there. Ridership on RIPTA is continuing to soar. We did a bit last year finally, but getting money for public transit is very tough.  I guess poor folks do not count.  The rich ride airplanes, so Green gets money, while the folks ride buses so we can under invest there.

“Obama wants cameras on 50000 police”

It is the violence by the government, at all levels of government in the United States, that drives the violence in our communities.  We are a nation founded on genocide and slavery.  Killing the poor and people who are others has always been the way of the rich and the white.  If we want to stop violence in  the streets, cameras on cops is not enough.  You might have to disarm them and send them home.

“Seeking housing not shelters”

We have known for years that housing helps people deal with all their other stuff, and saves us a ton of money in other services, but we continue to underfund housing, which helped the banks pull off the bubble we bailed them out on as well as increasing individual crises.  The rent is too damn high for the wages paid in america.  For 200 years the US government helped the poor create housing or provided some.  The rich decided they could steal better if the government stopped competing with them or helping the poor, so they ran a 50 years campaign against funding for housing.    it worked, homelessness is out of control and the banks are still abusing us.

 

“Limited pool of contenders”

They are having a hard time finding a new Secretary of Defense.  The fact that we have lost every war we have fought with the exception of Grenada in the last 50 years means that anyone with a brain would not want the job since we seem to have a Washington elite that can not keep sticking its foot in  it.    As noted above, cameras on cops is not enough.  This country needs to close the Pentagon and spend most of that money doing things like building housing and transforming our energy,transportation, and food systems. I guarantee our streets would get calmer. We could also stop killing for oil which might help with the next item.

“New limits heat up UN talks in Lima”

it is so ridiculous that the people of the planet have been prevented from stopping climate change by the criminals who run fossil fuel businesses, pay off politicians, and use the US government to protect their pipelines.   Citizens United is a near death sentence for democracy and the money interests are looking for the short term reward figuring the rest of us will pay the piper with our treasures and our lives.  We need to stop burning fossil fuels, go totally green, and shrink the economy to a size that fits on the planet better.  If we practice equality, and disarm the rich so they do not steal again, there is enough for all the people  and the wild things.  We are losing the wild things, 50% since 1970, and losing our ability to live on the planet.  Lima is a place to stop the madness, though I have my doubts that that is even on the agenda.

 

Rhode Island economic summit comments November 2014

Inside the November 26 Providence Journal is a headline “Raimondo to hold “summit’ on the economy”. The article goes on to report on the Rhode Island jobs crisis and how convening the same people who got us into this mess will provide the solution. Sorry, but if you have seen one press release on an economic summit, you have seen them all.

The “leaders” Governor elect Raimondo will convene have been convened before and will offer up the same old tired solutions. The will tell us to reduce taxes, loosen regulations, and support meds, eds, real estate speculation, and entrepreneurship. We have heard this before, and it has not worked yet.

The reason it has not worked is not that we do not follow the prescription despite what the “leaders will tell us. Rather it is does not work because it is the wrong reading of the economy and where it will go on the trip to prosperity for Rhode Islanders. Making it easier to build in wetlands simply floods the towns downstream.

In order to bring prosperity to Rhode Island communities development must be focused on ecological healing and economic justice. You can not separate these concepts, but for clarity, lets start with economic justice. Economic development is not a top down process. It is a bottom up process that must be done in ways that communities are comfortable with. Communities have the right to say no to inappropriate projects, and we must remember how many boondoggles have been foisted upon Rhode Islanders when they are not consulted, and how often we have saved the state’s bacon when we have risen up and demanded to be consulted.

The second part of justice is that inequality in the economy is one of the things that weighs us down. It is only when the bottom 50% are doing well that the community thrives. The World Bank has found that in low income communities, the removal of community assets by the rich contributes to impoverishment. Gentrification does not help our communities, it is just another form of deportation.

As for ecological healing, climate change is changing everything. Clean energy is on everyone’s agenda, and it should be, but we need to focus even more attention on food security. Even the Pentagon knows that droughts in key agricultural areas are sending upheavals around the planet. The Arab Spring was sparked when grain shortages due to drought and fires in Russia sent prices through the roof. We may think police murdering youth gets people out in the streets, but when people can not feed their children, governments fall.

The California drought is going to mean food insecurity for many Rhode Islanders and real hunger for some. A way to combine ecological healing, climate mitigation, and economic justice is to help Rhode Island grow 20 times as much food as it does now. Build soil carbon, create jobs, feed the hungry, build our resilience.

Governor elect Raimondo ought to listen to someone other than the same old voices telling her things that do not work. Instead of the usual crowd, leave half of them home and fill the other half of the room with people focused on ecological healing, climate change, organic agriculture and food security. That discussion would be a lot more interesting and much more likely to find solutions.

Greg Gerritt

An open letter to Governor Lincoln Chafee November 2014

Dear Governor Chafee,

This is a letter that will be made public. You should know that as you read it.

I doubt that you have been really pleased with the performance of the Rhode Island economy during your term. I do not think anyone has been all that pleased.

You probably do not remember the meeting we had in the spring of 2010 when you were running for governor. I explained where I thought the economy was going and why. You looked absolutely frightened by what I told you and were in no mood to even consider that I might have been correct in my understanding of what Rhode Island faced. You were going to stick by the traditional grow the economy standbys despite the fact that they were designed for a vastly different economy than we face.

I know much more than I did 4 years ago, and have watched the Rhode Island economy continue to struggle. My regret is that if you had been willing to understand what RI faced you could have devised a much better strategy and RI would be a more prosperous place than it is now.

What I told you was that the RI economy was not going to grow much and that we needed to be smart about how to shrink it rather than thrash around for growth. You have given yourself over to the business climate fanatics with the growth plans that no longer work if they ever did. The data is rather clear. You should read the report from Kansas Inc, the Kansas version of the RI Commerce Corporation. http://www.kansasinc.org/pubs/working/Business%20Climate%20Indexes.pdf

Business climate is a meaningless concept created by the pr firms that told us tobacco does not cause cancer and that there is no climate change, or if there is climate change it is not man made. You know better about the climate, even if you have done much too little to help RI prepare for climate change rolling disasters such as the drought in California threatening the food supply. But you have swallowed hook, line, and sinker that if we did what the business climate maniacs want us to do, then growth would follow. You followed the party line. There are still fewer jobs than 6 years ago. The reason RI lags the national job growth averages are inherent in old post industrial places with few fossil fuel and hard metal resources in a world in which resources are limited, sinks are failing, and what growth there is needs to end up in the hands of the poorest, not the richest, if communities are to thrive. There is nothing in the prescriptions offered by the business climate quacks that address our situation. The increases in inequality that cutting taxes on the rich and speeding up destruction of ecosystems brings in an era of job shrinkage due to computers are part of the problem, not the solution.

I also want us to push back the drum beat on regulatory reform and how regulations are supposed to be holding us back. Beyond the simple minded attack on the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act that underlies all of the anti regulatory fervor in America we have to remember how often it is the citizens of RI uniting to stop BAD projects that were presented to us as economic nirvanas that have prevented ever greater disasters. You know quite well that if Rhode Island had had a full open discussion of 38 Studios we would not be out $100 million. You might also want to remember that if the public had been shut out and the Mega port at Quonset had been built, it would have opened just as the global economy tanked and cost us $1 billion.

The point you never made, and should have, is that if we are to make permitting easier, everyone wants simple easy to read and fill out forms, we need to make it easier for communities to defend themselves as well. Easy permitting can not be an attack on the environment or our health and safety if it is to actually help our communities achieve prosperity. We have to remember how to subtract as well as add when pondering the economy we want.

You are not the only elected official I have had this conversation with. Several years ago I sat with Speaker Fox and Leader (now Speaker) Mattiello and told them what I knew that day. I did not get the impression that Speaker Mattiello could remove his ideological blinders about the role of ecology and justice in prosperity any better than you. His public statements do not give me much hope.

I helped organize a meeting between Governor elect Raimondo and a number of the leading environmental thinkers in our state about a year ago. Several of us made the point on the importance of ecology and justice in prosperity in an age of shrinking economies in the old industrial west. The next Governor wanted to talk about storm water and solar power, but needs to continue to evolve on Full Cost Accounting, the need for the public to be fully engaged in decisions about economic development in the community, and how climate change changes everything. Food Security may just be the best lens for examining economic development policy under the circumstances.

I had a similar conversation with Mayor Elect Elorza when his campaign was beginning. I hope he remembers that Providence needs to grow 20 times as much food as it is now and that this is a key to our future economy. And using real estate speculation as a stand in for actual economic development in a city that already is too expensive to live in only serves the rich.

I expect you will do some very interesting things once you leave office. I think your best work may be ahead of you. And we all know there is much to do.

Greg Gerritt

Buy Nothing Day 2014 Essay

I write this on World Food Day. Ken Payne’s op ed in the ProJo today recounts for us how many Rhode Islanders are food insecure and the potential for employment if we grew more food here. Growing food is also building resilience as the climate changes. Think about vegetable prices if California’s Drought continues. For the skeptics and the deniers, the last 12 months, October 2013 to September 2014, is the warmest 12 month stretch in modern history.

I write this as I prepare to testify on October 27 at the public hearing on the Draft RI State Economic Development Plan, a plan guaranteed to sit on a shelf because it is a plan for a Rhode Island in another dimension, not the one we live in. Laa dee dah, we will grow the economy using the same strategy that has failed for more than 40 years, put more money in the hands of the speculators. More funny money, fewer jobs. Climate change denial is funded by the hydrocarbon industry and carried out by the same PR firms that told us smoking tobacco does not cause cancer. And the same paid liars tell Rhode Island to give more away to the rich. My officially submitted comments are found here http://prosperityforri.com/comments-on-the-september-2014-ri-economic-development-draft-plan/

Even as it warms, Polar Vortexes like last winters the result of global warming, not a refutation, the growing divides in our society as we slip towards empire and oligarchy mean that more people who can not afford winter coats need them. The statistic that the economic growth rates in RI from 1979 to 2010 tracked at exactly the national average while employment grew well below the national growth rate tells us that RI’s policies favor the wealthy way too much already. But in the ways of the wealthy, those who always talk of private enterprise creating jobs seem to always have their hand out for a subsidy, 38 Studios just the latest example. And we face constant pressure to undo the rules that protect the community includng what might be the most useful law the US ever passed, the Clean Water Act. Think of Watefire without clean water, or rather lets not. I remember what the rivers of New England used to smell like.

One way to turn this economy around is to have more democracy in it, not less. If communities were consulted more about what their communities need, if they could actually direct investment in the communities to the right places, if it was easier for communities to stop BAD projects, projects that poison communities or create flooding, then a lot more of the investment would go where it actually does us some good rather than filling just a few pockets. Some how the public private partnerships that we hear so much about end up as public cost and private profit, and only economic democracy along with a stronger political democracy is going to solve the problems of poverty, hunger, and climate change. As Ken Payne pointed out, growing more food in Rhode Island, in ways that heal the soil, is exactly what Rhode Island needs.

Christmas shopping will not ever save the economy. Retail therapy is what we do as communities break down. So throughout November people all over Rhode Island are collecting winter coats, and on November 28, for the 18th time, winter coats shall be given out to anyone who needs one at more than 10 locations in Rhode Island from South County to the Blackstone Valley and Newport. Each event is organized and managed locally. The people who get these emails, all 1500 of you, deserve much credit as you make it happen.

After 18 years the event remains the same, if a little bigger. If you need a coat, come get one. If you can donate a coat, please do. And on November 28 join Rhode Islanders from all walks and stations of life as we swap closet space and winter coats and make all of us happier.

2014 Buy Nothing Day Rhode Island sites

Rhode Island Buy Nothing Day Winter Coat Exchange

Buy Nothing Day the international day to point out how consumerism is destroying our planet and our communities. We collect and give away winter coats to give back to the community while pointing out how consumerism is a dead end

Friday November 28, 2014

Providence:   State House Lawn   brick patio across from the mall 

Collection and give away   Friday November 28 9 AM to 1 PM

Rain location  Gloria Dei Lutheran Church  15 Hayes Street  Providence

Contacts Greg Gerritt: 331-0529; gerritt@mindspring.com;

Phil Edmonds: 461-3683; philwhistle@gmail.com

 

Pawtucket :  175 Main St   Blackstone Valley Visitors Center

Coats accepted at the Blackstone Valley Visitors Center and many other locations in Pawtucket  all through November during business hours.

Collection at November Winters Farmers Markets Wednesday evening and Saturday morning at Hope Artiste Village

Coats given away Friday  Nov. 28  10AM  -2PM

Contact  Arthur Pitt ; kingarthur@yahoo.com 401-369-1918

http://www.neighborhoodlink.com/NAP-_Neighborhood_Alliance_of_Pawtucket/home

Cumberland   St. Patrick’s Church lawn   301 Broad Street, Cumberland, RI 02864

Friday, November 28, 2014   9am- 11am

For more information or to donate coats, contact Molly Cabatingan at (401) 334-9639 or at troop415cumberland@gmail.com

 

East Providence   Bridgepoint    850 Waterman Ave

Coats collected and given away Friday November 28  9 AM to 1 PM 

Coats collected throughout November at various locations in East Providence and Seekonk including the Newman YMCA.

Contact  David or Lisa Spencer

401- 965-9099     Dspencer@atlanticpaper.com

 

Newport  St Paul’s Church 12 West Marlborough St.

Coats collected and given away Novewmber 28 10 AM to Noon

Contact   Reverend Johanne Dame 401-846-0966 RevDame@gmail.com

Coats also available at other church events

 

Wakefield –St. Francis Church, 114 High Street,

Coats Collected and given away November 28 10AM to noon

Contact   Tom Abbott   401-364-0778   dawgdays@cox.net

 

Warwick Woodbury Union Church, in Conimicut Village, 58 Beach Avenue on November 28th from 10am to 12 noon.

Good condition winter coats, jackets, vests, gloves, mittens, and scarves. Church phone number 401-737-8232. E-mail contact:   jtarring@verizon.net.

 

Greater Providence YMCA sites

All sites collecting coats throughout November    Most sites distributing Coats on November 28   9 AM to 1 PM

East Side/Mount Hope

Drop off coats throughout November   Not a distribution site Coats distributed via the Providence site

Contact        Christy Clausen
Welcome Center Director

East Side/Mount Hope

438 Hope Street

Providence, RI 02906

Drop off

401-521-0155

cclausen@gpymca.org

Providence Youth Services (640 Broad Street, Providence)

Drop off coats throughout November   Not a distribution site

Coats distributed via the Providence site

Christy Clausen
Welcome Center Director

East Side/Mount Hope

438 Hope Street

Providence, RI 02906

Drop off

401-521-0155

cclausen@gpymca.org

 

West Bay Family YMCA Branch

Collection and distribution site Distribution Friday November 28

Contact   Kaitlyn Rooney

Welcome Center Director

West Bay Family YMCA Branch

7540 Post Road

North Kingstown, RI 02852

Drop off and Pick up site

401-295-6501

krooney@gpymca.org

 

Cranston YMCA

Collection and distribution site   Distribution Friday November 28

Contact       Andrea Champagne

Senior Director

Cranston YMCA

1225 Park Avenue

Cranston, RI 02910

Drop off and pick up site

401-943-0444

achampagne@gpymca.org

 

 

 

Bayside YMCA

Collection and distribution site   Distribution Friday November 28

 

Sandra Carney

Welcome Center Director

Bayside YMCA

70 West Street

Barrington, RI 02806

Drop off and pick up site

401-245-2444

scarney@gpymca.org

 

Kent County YMCA

Collection and distribution site Distribution Friday November 28

 

Patricia Driscoll

Welcome Center Director

Kent County YMCA

900 Centerville, Road

Warwick, RI 02886

Drop off and pick up site

401-828-0130

pdriscoll@gpymca.org

 

 

Newman YMCA (Seekonk, MA)

Collection of coats only   Distribution via East Providence site

Paula Roy

Welcome Center Director

Newman YMCA

472 Taunton Avenue

Seekonk, MA 02771

Drop off site

508-336-7103

proy@gpymca.org

 

 

eels eat menhaden

Friday afternoon as I was walking home I looked down into the lower Moshassuck and saw an eel grab a menhaden and take it under a rock to eat it.  The tide was dropping and at the riffle between pools the schools of menhaden did not want to travel through, though they could have swam it.  Right where they were milling around the eel struck.  Just prior to that I had seen a small predator, 7 or so inches, probably a bluefish, grab a menhaden by coming up o9n a school from behind and nabbing one.  Quite the predator day on the mighty Mo.

Tropical forests, Brownfields, and the RI economy

Tropical forests, Brownfields, and the RI economy       Greg Gerritt   9/11/14

 

Everyone agrees, The Rhode Island economy has been extremely slow to rebound from the Great Recession and was not all that great before that either. The ruling class has a plan to fix it. It is the same plan they have had for 40 years, give more money to the rich, pretend real estate speculation is economic development, talk about the fad of the week, and try to lure some of the faddists down from Boston. While it has made the rich richer, for the rest of us it has been not so good, we have gotten poorer and the services we rely upon have been underfunded. The updated traditional model does have a few good ideas. Not al the fads are horrible, None are panaceas, But most of us can agree that fix schools, go Green, provide lifelong learning for people so they can change with the changing world, and generally have an efficient system for administering the rules and regulations that protect the public and the environment are a good idea. But most of what comes out of Smith Hill, City Halls, and the Chamber of Commerce, not to mention the dark money foundations funded by billionaires, is exactly what has gotten us into this mess, and doubling down will only make it worse.

 

Every politician talks about the public private partnership of development and every real estate speculator has their hand out for government largesse, but at the same time we are told of the supremacy of the market. It is therefore extremely important to clarify what the role of government in the economic development process ought to be. While the market purists insist that the only thing government should do is get out of the way, the role of government is critical If nothing else, guaranteeing weights and measures and policing markets all require government. We could create money without the government, essentially that has already been turned over to the banks, but ultimately governments are responsible for a valued currency. What about basic infrastructure? How do we decide to fund airports that are losing more passengers every month when buses serve more people every year and lose their funding?

 

 

But there is more to it. First and foremost may be all the research we the taxpayers funded in basic science and new technologies, research that underpins all of the fads of the week such as biotech, software, and energy. Governments either contract out or do on their own the building of weapons, and constructing civilian infrastructure such as roads, water supplies and sewers. And even in the places that claim to be the home of market purists cities and states offer real estate tax breaks, targeted job training, business education, and all manner of relocation subsidies. Can we begin to speak honestly about the role of government in the economy?

 

 

Occasionally a government actually practices democracy, invites the people to participate, and looks out for the good of the people instead of just the rich, but that is rare. But one could well make the case that in a democracy, in a society looking for widespread prosperity, that instead of helping the wealthy, communities and states, as well as the Federal government and global institutions like the World Bank, should target all of their assistance to those in the community with the least since the rich by definition do not need the help of the government. Part of the reason for this last suggestion is that we are more and more aware that rising inequality hurts economies and its flip side, when those with the least are prosperous, the entire community is prosperous.

 

 

Based on the knowledge that prosperity is actually a bottom up enterprise, in RI the entire economic development activity by the government should be directed into the communities with the least, our old water powered riverine towns and old industrial neighborhoods. RI was built around waterpower and our towns grew up around the rivers and shores. And poverty is clustered in the oldest industrial neighborhoods as they are where immigrants have always headed because of the jobs available there that did not require much English or reading. Of course 100 years ago the industries that made RI a 19th century economic powerhouse started to head for cheap labor neighborhoods with authoritarian governments. Now we mostly have abandoned mills and run down housing.

 

 

A key feature of our riverine neighborhoods in the 21st century is abandoned lands, brownfields is the term, some just filled with debris, some seriously toxic. I believe that how RI uses resources to improve prosperity in our old riverine and industrial areas, our Environmental Justice neighborhoods, is much more important for creating community prosperity than any of the shenanigans like tax breaks for corporations that the 1% buys from the legislature and zoning boards. If we do justice to our EJ communities, prosperity will come back to Rhode Island in ways we have not seen in 50 years. But it may not be based on the traditional growth model as that leads to both inequality and ecological collapse.
Economic development in low income neighborhoods has always been difficult. But there are successful models out there if we look. While the World Bank is a global institution, and has numerous detractors, it does have a long history of economic development efforts in low income community, and it uses many of the same tools government in Rhode Island uses to spur development.

 

I want to draw your attention to a particular study Managing Forest Resources for Sustainable Development: An Evaluation of World Bank Group Experience, http://wwwwds.worldbank.org/external/default/WDSContentServer/WDSP/IB/2012/02/13/000356161_20120213002609/Rendered/PDF/667510WP00PUBL05805B0Forest0AP02011.pdf . This is a study of World Bank economic development in tropical forests and what works or does not work there.

You might ask how what goes on in tropical forests relates to the problems of economic development in post industrial cities. The first part of the argument is that tropical rainforest communities are often the monetarily poorest communities in a country, even though the access to forest resources by the poor provides them better nutrition and food security than others in the country with a similar monetary income. . Often they are the most disempowered, disenfranchised, and marginalized people in a country. And often they are considered to be of a different ethnicity than the urbanites who run the government. Clearly that matches the profile of EJ communities.

”…….forests often have a combination of capturable wealth but poor, isolated, and powerless residents. Powerful interest groups can seize this wealth, depriving poor people of access to forest resources, and sometimes contributing to corruption and poor governance at the national level.

 

The reuse of brownfields in our current model has much in common with this situation. Brownfields are often the biggest chunk of land available for any economic activity (the most capturable resource) in EJ communities and their redevelopment by outsiders often leads to displacement for EJ communities . Often they are developed in a way that reduces government tax revenues due to sweetheart deals (very similar to the way warlords get forest removal concessions)Given all of the things that prevent equitable development in Rhode Island I offer here the quick and dirty summary of what the World Bank found to work best, improve the living standards of the community, increase the amount of tax revenue the government was able to collect from this economic activity, and maintain the health of the forest. You are more than welcome to read the original cited above.

1. Make sure the project has an ecological sustainability component based on real science and ecosystem health,

2. Include efforts to directly address poverty, especially addressing the needs of the poorest people and most disenfranchised in the community,

3. Put specific safeguards in place to make sure the capturable benefits stay in the community rather than end up in the hands of those who already have power and resources, This includes secure land tenure for forest dwelling communities.

4. Develop democratic processes and practices for directing investment, and

5. Specifically encourage and train communities to stand up for themselves, while setting up a structural framework of real democracy in the larger community.

 

I am not going to spend much verbiage here on the ecological component of economic development other than to use my favorite quote “You can not end poverty without healing ecosystems, you can not heal ecosystems without ending poverty.” In an age of climate change this becomes even more important. If you need more on this sources are available. Likewise, making sure resources do not leak out of the neighborhood and are specifically targeted to the poor and women is the only way to insure development actually does some good in the neighborhood and simple common sense.

 

 

We do need to talk about land tenure. It is only fair and right that people who have lived in a forest for generations, before such a thing as deeds came to the community, before national governments claiming ultimate ownership of land came into existence, should be secure in their tenure. It is their land. Yet the rich urbanites have always sought to displace them and steal the forest. But clearly right is on the side of the forest people. It is a bit different for the inhabitants of places like Olneyville. No one can say that the poor own the land. It has been bought and sold ever since it was stolen from the native people of RI, by both document and sword. After all,the Great Swamp Massacre is very similar to what Indonesia is doing to its forest people now.

 

The original developers of Olneyville and similar villages are long gone, and who is benefiting now from the reuse of brownfields is determined by who has lots of money. Not who lives in the neighborhood or what would do the community the most good. But allowing this kind of development based on gentrification and tax breaks for the rich has not lifted the people of Olneyville, nor has it done much for the overall level of prosperity in Providence or Rhode Island.. Mostly what it has done is displaced the poor and immigrants yet again. Whereas if the benefits and the investment stayed in the community directed towards the subsistence and economy of the poorest of the community, women, children, the displaced, then it would lift all boats instead of 1% of the boats as what is being offered to us now does.

 
The World Bank has figured out that forest communities need economic democracy, Communities do not choose to destroy their forest or their own livelihoods. They do not vote to exile themselves to shanty towns. It takes warlords and governments selling the land out from under the inhabitants to do that. They do not willingly allow the forest to be captured despite the violence the rich bring to the game Keeping the value generated in the community is anathema to the speculator class who assume they should be allowed to do anything they want with land and resources. But in Rhode Island time and again we find when the speculator class is not reined in, disaster strikes (Hello 38 Studios) The flip side of this is that when the community is very involved in the development process, not only with a voice, but a vote, Rhode Island ends up avoiding disasters (Goodbye Quonset Megaport) and we stop the sweetheart deals that undermine good governance. And sometimes when the community has its say we get good stuff like the new Providence zoning code.

 

The World Bank concluded that keeping the benefits and the land in the hands of the poor provides the biggest win, win, win, including ecological healing, community prosperity, and over the long term the overall health of the national economy, Rhode Island needs a new plan based on ecological healing and economic democracy, one based on making sure the benefits of redevelopment in our cities benefits the residents of the communities, not outsiders. More tax breaks to wealthy developers and corporations will never give us what we want. Undoing environmental regulations will undo economic progress and make dealing with climate change infinitely harder, as well as make flooding worse. Time for a new plan based on ecological healing and economic justice.

The cold spot

Simple physics.  Cold air flows into low spots.  it is heavier, denser, it sinks. This evening I walked into a little cold pocket, the kind that develop as evening falls and the wind is calm.  Standing on the edge of the basin, maybe eight feet above the wetland, it was still pretty warm.  Walking  into the basin about half way down there was a sudden shift to seriously cooler.  At the base the ground was cold, but when I reached my hand up as high as i could, it was warm.  Such a perfect illustration, and a wonder and surprise each and every time you walk through one on a summer’s evening. Surprising even 40 years after I first started exploring them on the road north from Stillwater.    And a summer joy to this day.

RI Economic Growth about at the national average

Release from the Bureau of Economic Analysis

http://www.bea.gov/newsreleases/regional/gdp_state/qgsp_newsrelease.htm

For all the blather we hear about how RI is such a laggard economy, growth in RI matched the national average of 1.8% in 4th quarter 2013 and exceeded that in a number of states, including a number of states that supposedly have a good business climate, and exceeding that of Massachusetts.

Another nail in the coffin of the usefulness of the business climate.

What the BEA left out though is how much of that growth ended up in the hands of the 1% versus how much of it ended up in the hands of the 99%.  I am guessing that well over 90% ended up in the hands of the 1%, which essentially means there was no real growth for most of us, in RI or anywhere else.

 

 

The economic news August 2014

The economic news was all over the map this week. The number of jobs created was high for the fourth month in a row, but unemployment ticked up. I guess they have not yet run through the reserve army of the unemployed. Despite the number of jobs created wages were up only $.01, one penny per hour, Inflation is low, running only 2%, which is still faster than wages are rising, so people are feeling more squeezed. The adjusted economic growth rate was 4% after the shrinkage of the winter. Most of the growth was in the hands of the 1%, obvious when you think about the 1 cent an hour raise we got on average. Then the stock market went down 2 days in a row as the “good” economic news told the brokers that interest rates will rise until inflation does. They are wondering if the Federal Reserve can do its tweaking just right, which it never does.

The back story is that poverty is up, the rent is still too damn expensive for the wages we get, the climate is getting worse, the cracks in the empire are getting bigger, resource utilization continues to outpace the capacity of the earth to provide by a greater amount each year, and biodiversity, forests, fisheries, and soil are all crashing with the great extinction of the 20th Century ready to grow exponentially in the 21st. We are told that doing anything about the pollution and deforestation that is leading to climate collapse is bad for the 1% and therefore we have to invest ever more in fossil fuels despite solar and wind creating more capacity than fossil fuels each year and creating many more jobs per kilowatt hour.

The people who develop economic policy continue to read only 1/2 of the signs, and therefore continue to miss the boat. Rather than reversing ecological collapse by healing ecosystems and actually tackling inequality in the economy and all of the viscous cycles growing inequality sets up in the economy and our communities, we are told that cutting taxes for the rich comes before kids going to school with breakfast in the bellies and that teachers who can not teach hungry kids to pass culturally irrelevant standardized tests ought to be fired. We also see that despite the hosanna’s tossed at STEM and STEAM legislatures around the country are refusing to allow kids and government agencies to study climate change or evolution.

The power of the rich to destroy this country and the planet is quite large, but the resistance is growing daily. Just ask the pipeline companies. And then ask the government officials about the reports that New England could meet all of its energy needs without them through conservation and solar. Then ask them why they support the pipelines. They will say jobs. Then remind them that clean energy will create more jobs per installed unit of capacity that gas and see what they say to that. At that point they will tell us that exporting gas around the world will reduce fossil fuel carbon emissions. You then know they have lost their minds and that the new economic plan is going to have to be very different from the 1% oriented crap they have been trying to sell us for 40 years.

Fowler’s toad development 2014

Fowlers Toad Development 2014   Greg Gerritt

 

I do not know if I have learned more about Fowler’s Toad tadpoles or making videos since I started filming mating and tadpole season in Providence’s North Burial Ground. I do know that I know much more now than I did 18 months ago when the RI Rivers Council provided enough funding to purchase a used camera and pay a very small stipend that mostly went for other expenses for the project.

 

I break down the knowledge into 3 components. The more I pay attention to what the tadpoles are doing, both in the pond, and in reviewing what I have filmed the better I am in adapting my schedule to film them based on conditions at the pond and the developmental stages of the tadpoles. I am almost starting to think about doing some rigorous science to test hypotheses such as Fowler’s Toad tadpoles are colonial but have no recognition of other tadpoles as any different from other life forms in the pond.

 

The second component is how to use the camera and create the conditions for capturing high quality pictures that demonstrate those parts of the life cycle I wish to show. I now know much more about how light levels effect the camera and the quality of the pictures. Means I mostly film on sunny days, and calm is the best wind conditions for filming into the pond. But it also means that I am getting better at tracking swimming tadpoles, figuring out how what i see on the view screen transfers to the computer screen and Youtube and slowly understanding how to get the appropriate scenery shots for intros.

 

Finally I am learning the art of putting things together and thank Abe Vargas for a recent lesson that gave the work a big boost, tripling my editing capacity.

 

 

 

The video this essay accompanies is the first of a number of videos that will be made from the complete archive of Fowler’s Toad tadpole footage shot this year. I have hours of footage, most of which will never make it to the web, but a vast library for studying toads and for making a series of short videos for Youtube. This one focuses on physical development. When I first applied for funding for the project that was the goal. To document the physical development of tadpoles in the pond. I almost wanted to make a time lapse video, but the first year I had only wild shots and a few fuzzy captive shots and it would not work.

 

This year I pondered what kind of stage I needed to shoot on to keep the tadpoles happy and prevent them from constantly swimming out of view. Turned out a daily dose pill box worked very well. Still not good enough for a time lapse video like I saw on Walt Disney Sunday nights as a kid, but good enough for this year. I also wanted folks to have time for a second look at the little critters and pick out the changing anatomical features. I am also going to try it out with much shorter clips and see how that looks.

 

But documenting the physical changes is not enough for someone who was more interested in animal behavior than anatomy. Everyone knows I am no taxonomist, and some of my misidentifications have played out publicly as I crowd source identifications. Locomotion and social behavior will also be the subject of videos in the course of the fall, as well as other aspects of the micro ecosystem where the drama plays out. I also have a few ideas for a little tadpole humor that seem so appropriate for Youtube.

 

The issues of maintaining ecosystem health and biodiversity in our communities is intimately tied up with the long term prosperity of our communities. I am still working on how best to use these videos about a drainage swale in an urban cemetery in the community, so I am crowd sourcing again. If you have general or specific ideas of who should see this video please let me know and arrange a showing.

Greg Gerritt Watershed Steward Friends of the Moshassuck   Youtube Moshassuckcritters Blog ProsperityForRI.com FOTM website   TheMoshassuck.org

 

Advice for candidates July 2014

My neighborhood hosted a candidates forum last night at the same time that we have a one man crime wave robbing houses in the neighborhood. The discussion started trending to what we might do to right the ship about crime, and I offered tax the rich and close the school to prison pipeline. Several folks liked it, so I offered what the candidates should have talked about last night. greg

From: Greg Gerritt <gerritt@mindspring.com>
Date: Wed, 23 Jul 2014 15:20:50 -0400
To:  Summit Neighborhood <Summit@sna.providence.ri.us>
Subject: Re:

And none of the candidates were actually willing to talk about it last night. I have personally met with 4 of the 7 candidates we saw last night and spoken to those 4 about how the economy is not going to work in RI under the neoliberal model. I reminded them we have to directly address inequality, globalization/localization, climate change, ecological healing and food security if we are to create an economy that creates livelihoods in our communities in the 21st Century. All we were offered is more real estate speculation and meds and eds despite that real estate specualtion fosters inequality and is an easy way to crash the economy. And meds and eds are some of the leading causes of bankruptcies and debt and among the biggest stifflers of innovation.

As for regulation, the anti regulatory fervor is mostly around building in wetlands (very dumb when you are getting ever more damaging flooding over time) and allowing companies like GM that knows it has cars that are likely to have catastrophic failures and kill people to get off with a slap on the wrist because they keep so many palms greased.

City economies seem to unfortunately be dependent upon speculation. Therefore it is hard to move towards being more self sufficient with affordable farmland and housing, but that is where our future prosperity lies. Economic growth that actually reaches our neighborhoods has not happened for 40 years and is never coming back (121% of all the growth in income in 2011 went to 1% of the population, yes the rest of us got poorer desite economic growth being trumpeted). The thrashing around for growth (tax breaks which no self respecting capitalist would even ask for unless he were a simple rent seeker) that all of the candidates trumpeted last night is a recipe for disaster. Climatic and economic. Having met with 4 of them previously, and setting up a meeting with a 5th, I am not holding my breath that any candidates for office in RI this year understands that the military industrial complex is not a boon for RI, but a money pit that costs us both blood and treasure. So it might not be fair to believe that they would get how much inequality in an econmy grinds it to a halt in many of the same ways that ecological destruction does. But I will keep trying to educate them. greg

High Summer

High Summer is an old term.  I always take it to mean late July, early August when it is hot and the sun seems close to its zenith come midday.  The days have barely begun to shorten, gardens are starting to producer summer crops like tomatoes,  the eggs are hatched, the tadpoles turned to toads, the fledglings are finding their wings.

 

In the Seekonk River the bait fish have arrived in large numbers and the predators have followed.  There are always fish in the Seekonk, it is a tidal brackish river with a fringing marsh and some forest along its shores. The northernmost extension of Narragansett Bay, its northern terminus the falls of the Blackstone in downtown Pawtucket, its mouth where it joins the Providence River between Fox and Bullocks points. But while there are always fish,  finding them is usually quite a feat.  The only reliable sightings are of the smallest bait fish on warm still days right along the shore.  But come high summer the feeding frenzies become visible.

 

Sitting by the shore there were 10 to 15 reasonably large splashes every minute for more than a few minutes, interspersed with explosions of baitfish as they leap out of the water to escape the jaws of death.   I am not sure what the predator was today, probably bluefish, 6 or 8 inches long mostly from the splashes i saw.  Almost does not matter.  What matters is that the Seekonk is still alive enough to have feeding frenzies in high summer, and that is a very good thing.

 

Giving further testimony to the bounty of the day as I walked upstream along the western shore towards where i sat and watched the fish feast I saw 3 or 4 Great Blue Herons winging south.  Once I sat down to enjoy the fish and got situated I turned my scope to the eastern shore along the salt marsh just north of the Pawtucket/East Providence line below the mills.  On the eastern shore I saw one egret and an additional 8 Great Blue Herons, the most herons I have seen in one place it quite a while.

 

AHH Summer.

 

 

Report from a drainage swale

Report from a drainage swale. July 2014

Greg Gerritt Watershed Steward Friends of the Moshassuck

 

I am spending more and more time by a little drainage swale in the North Burial Ground. So much that my wife gave me a chocolate toad Valentine treat this year. And it will be in a video. Just below the maintenance building and sitting within a stones throw of I-95 this particular swale usually has water, but has been known to go dry at any season of the year if we go three or 4 weeks without rain. When I began spending time at the drainage swale I was focused on the life in the pond. I will return to that shortly, but this year an additional interest has been it’s functioning as a rainwater runoff catchment basin.
 

It turns out that our community is now ready, 17 years after we started talking about it, for a new way to manage rainwater. Doing it in ways that clean and recycle the water within the ecosystem is becoming the norm. Of special concern is what we do when the rainwater comes in the torrents that climate change is already bringing to us. The word is getting out about rainwater gardens, filtering systems to clean and infiltrate rainwater and never let it into the sewage system, such as the new installations at J. T. Owens Park and Providence College. What is so interesting about the NBG swale is that instead of filtering and draining it holds the water, and therefore has turned into some very interesting wildlife habitat. As Rhode Island looks to ever more Green Infrastructure I am going to push for at least some rainwater management efforts that increase wildlife habitat, especially for amphibians, among the most endangered taxa on Earth.

 

I visit the Burial Ground and the drainage swale in all seasons, and it is almost always an interesting place. But from May to July it is at its best. From the time the Toads and Tree Frogs start calling in the spring, May 10th in 2014, the first evening over 60 degrees, the place really perks up. The vegetation explodes with cattails shooting up and the pickerelweed starts covering more and more of the pond. Pickerelweed seems to retreat in the winter and then grow from runners spreading to cover the whole pond by late June. Then come their purple flowers that attract all kinds of insects and the aerial show of dragonflies and bees comes to town.

 

It was the Fowler’s Toad tadpoles that first caught my eye 5 years ago, I was walking along the shore looking for life and there they were. They have become a lodestone that draws me back for hours at a time in the late spring. Fowler’s Toads, Bufo fowleri http://www.marshall.edu/herp/old/fowlers.htm is a grey mottled toad 2 or 3 inches long native to eastern North America, pretty similar to the American toad. I have only seen the adult toads 3 or 4 times, including once this spring sitting on the bottom of the pond, but I am quite familiar with very young toads and the tadpoles that precede them.

 

About 7 days after the first night of mating 1/8-inch long tadpoles appear. And with the same time lag new pulses of tadpoles followed each night of successful mating until there were at least 6 different age classes in the pond this spring, and even after the first newly transformed toads hopped away up the hill in late June there continued to be young tadpoles swimming about into mid July and new pulses of tiny toads.  Fowler’s Toad tadpoles are little black things that swim hither and yon in the pond, moving almost randomly, stopping frequently to eat. They land on vegetation and start scraping algae and bacteria off. I found out that the tail of a tadpole, in addition to being used for swimming, is mostly intestine for digesting the large quantities of low energy food that they feed on.

 

I tend to think of the tadpoles as colonial but not social. Often they clump together in large schools, grazing and resting, but they seem almost oblivious to each other, as the only interactions among them are when they accidentally bump into each other. In fact other than swimming and eating the most characteristic movement of a Fowler’s Toad tadpole is shaking vigorously, which appears to be their all purpose response to any irritation, whether it be human, insect, microscopic irritant, or another tadpole.

 

Over the course of 4 or 5 weeks the tadpoles grow to about 1 inch long, develop legs, shrink to ½ the size of the largest tadpoles as all the stored nutrients are transformed into legs, and hop away from the pond to feed on insects (hence no longer needing a massive intestine), and return the next spring for some very wild nighttime choruses. As this is a video project I have some video of the lights from cars and Benny’s on Branch Avenue as well as the moon, as the sights to accompany the walls of sound that that the toads and tree frogs make on warm spring nights.

 

Three years ago it became obvious to me that this was a great site for a video project, as you can stand on the edge of the pond and easily get very interesting and informative views and footage of tadpoles in their element in the early part of the season. I then sought out youth programs to see if there were any kids that could be attracted to the project. When no programs were able to get involved (a project that starts in the spring and continues into summer vacation is problematic and the Burial Ground is not really near any schools or child centers for convenient walking) I decided to do the videos myself and found support for equipment from the RI Rivers Council, whose support is greatly appreciated.

 

I have now being doing videos of the drainage swale and other life in the North Burial Ground for 18 months, beginning in January 2013. I have winter pictures including a frozen pond and snow, pictures of a chocolate Valentine’s toad in the snow proclaiming it is all about Toad Love, pictures of dry cracked mud in the summer, footage of vegetation, insects, Gray Tree Frogs, and fall leaves, but mostly video of Fowler’s Toad tadpoles. At the other pond in the Burial Ground I focus on birds turtles, and bullfrogs. I focus on the Toads primarily because they are easy to see in the pond and capture for close-ups, partly because the transformation from tadpole to toad fascinates me, and to be able to watch, record, and share it in detail is a treat.

 

Most of the in pond shots of tadpoles (and other pond creatures) are magnified, sometimes to 100 times, depending upon the brightness of the sun that day and the other conditions. And for many of the things I am capturing with the camera the best technique is to focus the camera on something interesting and then walk away and let the animals do their thing. In addition to capturing moments that I do not have the patience to observe in real time, the magnification allows everyone to see things that are so small that you cannot see them with the naked eye or even in the camera’s view screen. I see things when watching the dailies that I had no idea were there when I was filming.

 

This has given me insight into both what else lives in the pond (just wait until you see the dancing midge larva) and the behavior of the tadpoles. Without the camera I would never have been able to observe in detail how tadpoles eat, and I know that I never would have come to the conclusion that they are colonial but totally socially oblivious. Recently I have gotten into the habit of shooting some high magnification video of mudflats just to keep track of the tiny ones, though as the vegetation grows, the places one could do that are rapidly disappearing, and as of late June it is almost impossible to see into the pond, especially when the water is relatively low. At high water the swale extends to cover some of the mowed grass that normally surrounds it, and the visibility of the tadpoles in those sections is very good.

 

Last year was the first year of the video project, and for me the first time I had ever used a video camera. When I started I had no idea how to connect the camera to the computer and use the program to edit the movies. I am still learning how to edit and just recently I learned to do sound editing, music and voice-overs, something I am just beginning to put into Moshassuckcritters videos.

 

My goal all along has been to film all of the stages of development from mating to tadpoles to toads to returning to breed. Some stages are harder to capture than others, especially once they leave the pond, but I am developing a much larger library due to a focus on captive shots throughout the tadpole development cycle this year and a couple of days in mid June where the light and scene were excellent for capturing leg development in free swimming tadpoles and nearly every size tadpole imaginable were present in the pond and showed up in my net. To record leg development I net tadpoles, transfer into small pond water filled containers that are the right size to zoom in on so the tadpole is not constantly going out of the picture. My goal is 5 seconds of tadpole calmness for each videoed tadpole so leg size can be recorded. I expect as I go over 8 weeks of near daily video clips I shall be able to make a pretty good progression video for the development of Fowler’s toads in this particular place. Last year’s progression video was okay.  It was even entertaining considering I had almost no control over the audio except to use what was on the film or mute it and all the captions are paper signs I shot video of and edited in and only late in the season did I start capturing tadpoles for close-ups. We should know in a month or two whether I can put together a better quality and easier watching video that provide useful information for those who want to know more about tadpoles in the city and hold eyeballs. I have several stories to convey, feeding behavior, swimming, and developmental changes over the course of the spring, and will do several of the projects in varying length videos including some very short ones.

 

Another of my goals with this project has been to use it to promote knowledge of biodiversity in the city with the hope of attracting some of the next generation of environmental activists from urban neighborhoods to ground themselves in biology and the natural world so they are more prepared for the struggle. I have not really been successful in this endeavor beyond sharing my videos on YouTube. Hopefully as more and more work goes into urban biodiversity, and the quality of the videos improves, more folks will take advantage of the resource I am providing.

 

Video from the project is primarily available at https://www.youtube.com/user/Moshassuckcritters?view_as=public with links at the Friends so the Moshassuck website   http://themoshassuck.org. and at the ProsperityForRI.com blog http://prosperityforri.com   where most of the various writing I do is posted and Moshassuckcritters videos appear.

 

Enough about the project, you can watch the videos. If anyone wants to join the project, happy to discuss it further. So here is what I now know about Fowler’s Toads and their development through the course of the spring.

 

Fowler Toad adults head to the water for breeding beginning in May. It appears that breeding season starts when temperatures after dark are above 60 degrees Fahrenheit. (16 degrees Celsius). The toads start calling after sunset, but do not reach full chorus until it is dark. This is what they sound like: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UmzG9crGmWA

 

They mate on many different evenings, probably as often as conditions are right, but the population of adults at this particular pond is not very large. I could not make an exact count, maybe next year that is another thing to add to the list of things to record, but I figure there were at most about 10 or 20 Toads scattered about the shore. Even so, the chorus is hypnotic. The evenings of frolic produce thousands of tadpoles, with the numbers varying quite a bit from year to year. This year the numbers seem down a bit from the last two years, though the length of the breeding season may have produced more tadpoles than I realize. All I know is that I have video of thousands of tadpoles in the water at one time as I panned the pond in late May, and that I can only video a small portion of the pond.

 

Fowler’s toads have some flexibility. This year mating commenced on May 10 and continued well into June. Last year the pond was dry until May 25, at which point mating commenced, again with mating on a series of evenings. I do not know where the toads deposit their eggs.

 

Gray Tree Frogs share the drainage swale with the Toads. They commence mating season within days of the Toads, and after May 15 Tree Frog mating calls predominate my recordings. Tree frog tadpoles appear much later than Fowler’s toad tadpoles, and are much harder to observe. There are probably a variety of reasons for this, but the current hypothesis is that they stay deeper in the water than the Fowler’s Toads and only come near enough to shore to be seen or caught when the swale is at high water. Last year’s conditions seemed better for observing the Tree frogs and a 2013 video of them is available at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MlhdpVtL1WE

 

 

Toad tadpoles appear within 7 days of mating, This year I recorded them on May 17 and the first night of mating was May 10. I think that as the water warms up the eggs turn to tadpoles a bit faster, and I would not be surprised if late season tadpoles develop faster than early season tadpoles due to the warmer water keeping the metabolic fires running hotter and the greater availability of food.

 

The rear legs develop first and take a fair bit of time to grow to full size. Given all the different sizes I have recorded, and the length of the breeding season, I am guessing that legs begin to appear when they are two to three weeks old, but I have not done a detailed enough analysis of the progression I have recorded to make the case for sure. I may try to come up with a better methodology for this analysis next year even as I do more detailed analysis of this year’s film to see what I can learn.

 

Front legs start to appear after rear leg development is essentially complete. As the rear legs grow they are used in locomotion on the floor of the pond, but swimming continues to be dominated by tail-powered locomotion. I have not been able to garner a very good series of front leg growth pictures. I think a detailed look at all of my 4 legged tadpole pictures will give me a better sense of this, but my impression is that once the front legs start to appear they very quickly develop and grow out. At the 4 legged with tail stage the legs come to complement the tail in locomotion, especially on the pond bottom.

 

With 4 legs complete the tail shrinks rapidly and the toad becomes an air breather. They continue to be able to swim, remember the toad found on the bottom of the pond, and the large one I keep hearing jump but never catch a glimpse of, but now adopt the typical anuran hopping locomotion, which allows them to spend much more time on dry land chasing insects. They appear to hang around the pond for a day or so, getting their land legs. Then waves and waves of less than ½ inch toads start hopping up the hill and away from the pond.

 

As noted I have only seen adult toads away from the pond 3 or 4 times over the years, so I have no direct knowledge of their behavior, but Wikipedia says they burrow into the ground for the winter, and the Burial Ground has that easy digging sandy soil that makes for good toad habitat and easier digging for burials in the times people dug them with shovels.

 

Biologists in Rhode Island have informed me that Fowler’s Toads are rarely encountered in here. Gray Tree Frogs are more common. I was also told that neither Fowler’s Toads nor Gray Tree Frogs have been recorded in Providence for 100 years until my video record. This could be because neither are found elsewhere in the city (possible) or because the few folks who know where are not spreading that information. In any case I do not know of any other similar habitat in Providence.

 

I hope to continue this essay when I know more, but until then, thanks for reading and check out Moshassuckcritters on YouTube.

Thoughts on a drainage swale for the stormwater coalition

As some of you know I have a particular interest in a drainage swale in the North Burial Ground in Providence. It drains one small sector of the Burial Ground, essentially collecting road runoff from one part of one hill. It happens to hold water most of the time, going dry only occassionally. It ws dry last spring, filling on May 25 after a big rain and has had water in it pretty much ever since. Went dry the summer before for a few weeks as well. The last few weeks it has been shrinking, and my special concern is the Fowler’s Toad tadpoles that were in the swale. A population I have been studying and filming the past 2 years. My wife woudl tell you that this time of yer it seems I spend more time with the tadpoles than I do with her. Anyways, with the pond drying up slowly and the shoreline moving further and further away from where I can set up my camera without disturbing the muddy bottom, it was getting harder to conduct my video project and I was worried that the pond would go dry before the toads were launched. So I was praying fror rain.

With the rain Wednesday and Thursday I was hoping the pond would fill back up, a hard train is all it takes. So yesterday about 1 PM I went out to the swale. There is one inlet off the road, a sort of channeled drop off the road, feeding into a cat tail swamp (dry yesterday) and then making its way into what most would call a pond. At 1 PM despite two days of showers, it was clear that the water had not reached the pond. There were a few tiny pools in the access that had not filled yet. As I was watching and pondering it started to rain harder and slowly the flow off the road increased. It never rained really hard, but for the half hour I was able to devote to it it rained fairly steady, and the stream off the road kept getting wider. Soon the little pools along the access sluice were filled and overflowing into the marsh. I walked around the pond (takes literally 3 minutes) and noticed the uneven parts of the mudflats were turning into puddles, but it felt like the abundant organic matter under the cattails was still absorbing all the water. On my third trip around I saw a plume of silt coming out of the marsh, confirming the water was finally reaching the pond, and sure enough by my 4th trip around the water was starting to flow over the mudflats. I was able to get back last night several hours after the rain ended. The pond had come up considerably, though still ringed by 4 feet of mud. Warmer weather is on the way, but I am a bit more confident that the tadpoles will make it through this year.

For the work of the stormwater coalition it is a reminder of what kind of rains can bring us localized accumulations of water, and a reminder that we should be on the lookout for places where green stormwater infrastructure can provide habitat for the neglected creatures of our community.

For those of you who are interested there are a variety of videos available om Youtube that show these tadpoles and the pond they inhabit. Moshassuckcritters https://www.youtube.com/user/Moshassuckcritters?view_as=public

I will also be leading a tour next Saturday June 14 at 9 AM showing off the forest restoration along the Moshassuck River and the wildlife of the burial ground, including the drainage swale and its tadpoles. For more info email me.

Greg Gerritt Friends of the Moshassuck

Letter on economics June 2014

The first section of the Sunday June 1 Providence Journal was filled with economic tales of woe. Wages have Flatilined, falling for many Rhode Islanders. At the same time pay for Corporate CEO’s is at an all time high compared to what everyone who works for them gets paid. And everyone is wondering why we can not get the Rhode Island economy to work well. I would suggest that instead of looking to give more to the 1%, that we focus our public policies on a better distribution of wealth, more ecological healing, food security and climate resilience. Current public policy suggests that real estate speculation is the main policy driver, with an ideological assault on regulation because we confuse building buildings on wetlands with economic development.

The way out of our dilemma is not corporate tax cuts, not the gutting of renewable energy standards, or the easing of water quality protections. The way forward begins with democracy, of reducing the power of money to control public policy, followed by community involvement in development decisions and a much stronger effort to make sure the benefits of brownfield reuse stays in the communities along the rivers rather than leaking to the other side of town.

Greg Gerritt

Real estate speculation undoes the economy

Response to an essay by Jim Russell

 

Until we stop confusing real estate speculation for economic development we shall continue to have too many people who can not afford a place to live. I do like Jim Russell’s point about neighborhoods with global versus neighborhoods with local economies. Unfortunately our governments only cater to the global neighborhoods.

 

As long as our expectation is that with each transaction the price of real estate is going to go up, we are never going to have affordable housing. Until we get used to real estate being priced lower in each transaction we are going to continue to chase our tail and never create a viable economy for a world going through climate change and in need of locally self reliant agriculture and food security. And the rent is still too damn high.

Response to pro jo series on the economy May 2014

Rhode Island will be unable to strengthen its middle class as long as it listens to the policy advocates for the 1%. As a close observer of the economic development process in Rhode Island and elsewhere, it is clear that those practicing economic development have an extraordinarily narrow view of development based on assumptions about planet Earth and Rhode Island that are no longer applicable.

Rhode Island is very unlikely to experience rapid economic growth. Our population is relatively stagnant, immigration and births roughly balancing deaths and emigration. Our infrastructure is old, we have not been a prime investment zone in 120 years. Climate change is going to make things quite interesting. Basing economic development plans on ever rising values of real estate creates the greater inequality that grinds down the economy even faster. The plan to give ever lower taxes to the rich does not work under these conditions. It lines the pockets of the wealthy as the rest of us get poorer.

Rhode Island is going to have to start its economic renaissance by accepting lower growth, sharing better, healing ecosystems, focusing on reducing our carbon footprint and increasing our food security. Free trade and a great business climate will not help communities in a low growth place. They increase inequality and speed up ecological damage.

Only an economy baed on ecological healing, economic justice, and economic democracy will bring prosperity to the communities most in need of it now.

Fowlers toad mating calls and note

 

 

May 11 2014

Last year I thought I figured out that the Fowler’s Toads start mating when he temperature at night reaches 60 degrees. This past week i started checking in the evening to see if mating season had begun, with no action earlier in the week as the temperatures in the evening were in the low 50’s. Last night it was warm enough for the first time, and as predicted the toads were calling.

The buzzes are the Fowler’s toads, but there are several other things calling that i could not see and could not identify. Anyone with knowledge of what else is calling, please let me know. Thanks.

 

Checked again on the evening of the 11th, Toads were calling, going to try to check when it gets cooler later in the week too.  See if I have the temperature thing down.

 

Prosperity Op-ed May 2014

I have seen a steady stream of words claiming that if Rhode Island would just do what the rich folks want us to do, everything would be okay. Rather than calling it doing the bidding of the 1% the think tanks give it a bit of a veneer and call it the business climate. Whatever you call it, the prescriptions called for by the propagandists for the ruling class are almost exactly the opposite of what Rhode Island needs to create prosperity. According to a variety of authors including the Business Curmudgeon and Kansas Inc, the Kansas state agency tasked with economic development, there is absolutely no evidence that undoing environmental regulations does anything useful for the economy, and cutting taxes has an effect so small that you probably would not notice. The Business Curmudgeon is very clear about how little value is generated by these reports

 

” In fact, we are reluctant to touch any state or city business climate studies–although we will. With very few exceptions, most should never be read. Period! Most rankings are little more than bullets fired at an enemy–and like all bullets, they should be dodged. Most indexes and rankings will decide for you what is valued in a business climate and toss out all the rest. … in the process the reader becomes cannon fodder in the polarization of America. If nobody read this stuff, it might eventually go away. – See more at: http://journal.c2er.org/2013/02/business-climate-revisited/#sthash.Tmn6uY6w.dpuf ”

 

On the other hand there is an abundance of evidence linking strong regulatory climates with healthier economies beginning with Stephen Meyers classic 1991 study. The innovation generated by the need to clean up, combined with efficiencies generated by not throwing things away, has had a huge positive effect on many bottom lines even before we discuss the economics of the health and well being benefits that strong regulations bring. A number of studies have shown that the various sections of the Clean Air Act provide economic benefits ranging from 4 to 1 to 40 to 1 more than the costs of compliance in our communities.

 

Beyond bludgeoning us with the business climate, economic development efforts in Rhode Island are mostly misguided because they seek goals that do not match current conditions There is pretty good evidence that places like Rhode Island that saw their industrial development peaks more than 100 years ago, have sprawled away from urbanism, and have few natural resources that can be mined or drilled for have a long term drop in growth rates that are not amenable to reversal by business climate methodology. The more Rhode Island thrashes around for growth by giving the rich the tax cuts and loose wetland regulations they want, the less likely we are to achieve community prosperity.

 

Understanding the slow growth environment we find ourselves in, and understanding that in order to achieve prosperity iRhode Island will need to heal ecosystems, reduce economic inequality ( the literature on how rising inequality undermines economies is growing rapidly) , reduce our use of fossil fuels, adapt to climate change and dramatically improve our food security, one has to wonder why so many in government and business continue to offer the same tired formula they have offered Rhode Island for 30 years, when all it has brought us are things like 38 Studios and nearly brought us a billion dollar debt for a white elephant container port in Quonset that was only averted when the people rose up to stop the elite from acting stupid with our money.

 

Clearly following the business climate think tanks prescriptions will prevent us from reducing inequality and getting ready for the changing climate, The World Bank has recently discovered that in low income communities making sure the fruits of development accrue to the community rather than get captured by outsiders, and practicing economic democracy, in which the community members have a voice and a vote in how money is invested in the community, is the only way to create the triple bottom line win-win-win our communities need.

Sustainable cities blog comment

I live in an old industrial city in a place where natural resource industries died even earlier than our industrial base. We were industrial based on water power, which started fading around 1890. We have high unemployment. As does every other place around that is not scarfing up resources faster and faster and polluting faster and faster. North Dakota and its boom towns based on climate destroying fossil fuel extraction comes to mind. The business class keeps telling us low taxes and little regualtion would be good for us, but we know better. Essentially we have to admit that we have reached the evolutionary point of a low growth economy, maybe even a shrinking economy. But that is so unamerican the rich can not comprehend it. So they thrash around, and increase the inequality in the economy while undoing what little environmental protections we have, thereby making our plight worse.

 

The more I study, the more obvious it becomes that economic devleopment has to be based on ecological healing and economic justice if it is to provide long term sustainability. It has to make sure the poor get the benefits and it has to be based on economic democracy. Developing the economuy for the 1% is what is killing the planet and our communities. And we need to acknowledge that unless we think we live on 4 planets, not just the earth, there is no way to keep growing the economy in the west if the poorer parts of the planet are to have anything.

 

Greg Gerritt Providence RI www.ProsperityForRI.com

The woodchuck

 

I saw the woodchuck several times over the course of a week before I was able to get a shot of it.  I think I posted about 10 seconds of muskrat shots last year, but that has been the only other possible mammal shots (except for humans) that I have posted. But with this woodchuck video I now have on Moshassuckcritters videos that focus on each of the major vertebrate classes.  Fish sex, probably due to the name, has been my most popular video so far,   The season has not yet started for tadpoles and frogs, but amphibians, especially the Fowler’s Toads, have been a primary focus.  Today’s woodchuck video is a bit chaotic because I was getting some very good turtle video and I went back to turtles when the woodchuck disappeared and then had to swing around to get more woodchuck pictures.  And I have a variety of bird videos posted.  Not bad for a little pond in the city.